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Miss Congeniality 1 And 2 [DVD] 
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A double-helping of Sandra Bullock comedies. In 'Miss Congeniality' (2000), when the Miss United States beauty pageant receives a threat from a notorious criminal, hardnosed FBI agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) is assigned to go undercover as a contestant in the competition and track him down. Gracie is none too happy about this, and when top expert Victor Melling (Michael Caine) arrives to help transform her from a tomboy into a convincingly elegant Miss New Jersey, she proves to be a most difficult student. Nevertheless, after Gracie enters the pageant, she soon forms a strong bond with her fellow contestants, and begins to worry for their safety as the killer continues to elude arrest. In the sequel, 'Miss Congeniality 2' (2005), things haven't been going so well for Gracie lately. Reeling from a broken romance and frustrated to find her newfound fame is jeopardizing the undercover work she loves, Gracie reluctantly agrees to serve the Bureau in the only way possible: coifed and styled for the talk show circuit as 'the face of the FBI'. Though resistant at first, she soon warms to the attention and it's not long before she's getting into her new role a little too much. Her new partner Sam Fuller (Regina King), a tough, ambitious agent who is clearly not her biggest fan, is the first to point out that the pampered Bureau star is turning into FBI Barbie. But when Gracie's best friend, pageant winner Cheryl Frazier (Heather Burns), and emcee Stan Fields (William Shatner), are kidnapped in Las Vegas, Gracie's crime-fighting instincts kick back in. Not wanting to risk losing their greatest PR asset, the FBI top brass forbid her to get involved and charge Sam with keeping her in line. But when it comes to breaking a difficult case and helping her friends, there's nothing Gracie won't do.
The Miss Congeniality movies are custom-made for Sandra Bullock's screen career persona. She plays clumsy, nerdy FBI agent Gracie Hart, who is given the horrific pseudonym Gracie Lou Freebush (one example of the movie's juvenile tendencies) when assigned to infiltrate a beauty pageant to investigate threats of a terrorist attack. Transforming Bullock from frumpy geek to stunning contestant was always going to be a piece of cake so the premise for the first Miss Congeniality tale is tenuous at best. More enjoyable is her character's uncouth disdain for pageant contestants and her mistaken perception that they're all a bunch of bimbos. The film nicely charts Gracie's realisation that her own pageant makeover provides a much-needed ego boost, although she gives pageant coach Victor, played by Michael Caine, a run for his money. In addition to Caine's effortless scene-stealing, William Shatner as pageant host and Candice Bergen as the event organiser are smart choices for comedic support, but the movie desperately needs a credible foundation for its comedy to really pay off. Bullock's bureau boss (Benjamin Bratt) is an unconvincing dimwit, and none of the plotting is as smart as, for example, Beverly Hills Cop in combining procedure with laughs. That leaves Bullock to carry the burden of a comedy that barely works in her favour. Only Bullock's fans will appreciate the sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Dumped by her boyfriend (whom Benjamin Bratt wisely decided not to portray this time around), a gloomy Gracie goes along with the promo biz until her friend, Miss United States (Heather Burns), is kidnapped along with Stan Fields (William Shatner) in Las Vegas. Bullock still has enough perk to please her fans, but neither she nor her awkward alter-ego make a success of this sequel to a film released five years earlier. --Jeff Shannon
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Personally, I would say both these films (but especially MC2) look a lot better than DVD; but, if I'm honest, they're not up to the same standard as most blu-ray films. Personally, I really wanted these films on BD but didn't want to pay a lot and this was the best solution. I'm very happy with the picture quality and both films have a DTS HD Master audio track. Definitely worth the upgrade!
The storyline is well known and basically a combination of many classic themes: Cinderella, the Ugly Duckling, role reversal, the tough cop with the heart of gold, a small woman proving herself in a male-dominated milieu, a sceptic reassessing her preconceptions. A cacophony of clichés, but as everyone knows, clichés work because they are true to life. The attempt to make beauty contests seem less shallow and sexist than they really are is half-hearted and it only pays lip service to the cause, which is just as well because anything heavier would get in the way of the humour.
Sandra Bullock is one of my favourite contemporary actresses and in this she establishes her full acting range: she is funny, screwed up, self-mocking, committed, moving, and physically impressive in her athletic scope (I know she had a stunt double, but in many scenes she does the punching and kicking herself). The other pageant contestants, unfortunately, are mediocre at best in both acting ability and looks (that part, at least, is true to life).
Michael Caine waltzes through a typically brilliant performance and Candice Bergen is convincing in her role. The real surprise for me was William Shatner, who provided some of the funniest moments just by cringing or delivering a killer line with perfect timing. I didn't know he had it in him.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
Sequels seldom live up to the originals that spawned them, but I thought this one was different enough that it actually had its own particular appeal. Sandra Bullock is undoubtedly a smart woman, and she displayed her acumen in the structure of Miss Congeniality 2 by retaining the key characters and bringing in a couple of new counter-heros strong enough to carry my interest to the end. The story is obviously fluff, but there are many funny moments.
Gracie Hart, the unlikely Miss America runner-up, has tried her best to go back to her day job as a field agent, but her notoriety and public appeal have become huge handicaps and actually threaten the safety of anyone working with her. Since Gracie is now a lemon, her boss sees a way to make lemonade by turning her into the glamorous face of the FBI. The plot follows her hugely successful mission until her one and only friend, the reigning Miss America, is in mortal danger and Gracie has to return to active duty, saddled with a surly bodyguard who despises her and a style expert who won't allow a single one of her hairs to be out of place.
Regina King is terrific as the partner/antagonist and Diedrich Bader hams it up convincingly as an over-the-top style guru (the successor to the character played brilliantly by Michael Caine in the first movie). Also Heather Burns has a lot more screen presence in this. But, surprisingly again, many of the truly hilarious moments are down to William Shatner, who apparently excels at tragicomedy, although my favourite scene is the one featuring Ida: Sandra Bullock at her most daring comedic genius. Oh, and the high-heel chase after fake Dolly, priceless!
Quite a few special features, enjoyable if you like some background info, but the quiz was too long and boring and, ultimately, a bit pointless.
My idea of entertainment is light-hearted comedy with a feel-good factor. I'm glad we bought this DVD set because, although a bit old, it's still worth watching in preference to some of the depressing dross that passes for movies at the moment.
For those who are interested, these are the details for both DVD discs:
Spoken languages: English, French, Italian
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic and Russian
- Commentary with Sandra Bullock and Mark Lawrence, the executive producer and screenwriter
- Commentary with Director, Donald Petrie
- Preparing for the Pageant
- The Pageant
- “Missing” Scenes (different on each disc)
- Sneak peak at Miss Congeniality #2
- Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Beauty Queen? Quiz
- Theatrical Trailer
This film is absolutely hilarious, just watch the trailer! There's a lot going on and the whole secret FBI agent parading as a beauty pageant contestant reminded me of the undercover operations in the television series Bones. Especially considering just how intelligent the character actually was. The relationship between her and her partner was also quite interesting. I will definitely be watching the second one- if only to find out if the chemistry between them lasts, and whether Grace will revert to her normal tom boy self- will this help the relationship at all?
It's also worth mentioning that the 'makeover' this character undergoes is by far the best- I always thought nothing could beat Mia's in the Princess Diaries. If only to watch the transformation, I would certainly recommend this film.
Okay, so I have now updated this with my review of the second:
This follows Gracie as a celebrity, so it's more glamourous and I admit, I was disappointed that her relationship with Matthews didn't continue (though, I did expect this to be the case because he only fell for her because of her transformation. Needless to say, this was still a fun, energetic, action type film. But, I do still prefer the first....Though I also fell in love with this second film's cast.
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