Summer’s officially here, can you feel the heat? The better question is, are you feeling The Heat? Of course, I am referring to the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy buddy cop comedy which opens this week. It’s trailer is a bit uneven, but Melissa McCarthy is the highlight of the mediocre Bridesmaids and Sandra Bullock has proven she can play an unlikable FBI agent hilariously. Don’t remember? That’s why we’re revisiting her 2000 flick, Miss Congeniality.
The FBI decipher the latest letter from the terrorist known as The Citizen identifying the Miss United States Pageant as his next target. With only 48 hours before the televised event begins in San Antonio, Texas, Agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) is assigned to lead the investigation. His plan, an undercover operation, needs a female agent that can pass as a contestant, and Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is the only option. After meeting with the pageant coordinator Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen), they enlist pageant consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine) to transform the frumpy, ill-mannered Gracie Hart into the hopeful Miss New Jersey alternate, Gracie Lou Freebush. Though she looks the part, Gracie’s as worried about blowing her cover as she is the bomber blowing up the event.
From the synopsis, it’s obvious the premise devised by writers Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas is preposterous. Even a decade ago, the FBI could have devised a much better option to stakeout the pageant than to insert one of its own uncouth agents. Not to mention that not even Henry Higgins could transform Gracie into a pageant contestant in only 48 hours. The finer points of Miss Congeniality aren’t to be scrutinized; only accepted so you can move on to enjoying the hell out of it.
A large part of that enjoyment is thanks to the writers and Bullock creating a character worth investing in. Gracie’s a well-meaning person, but she follows her gut more often than orders or societal queues. Her mannerisms, open-mouthed eating, and posture show her to be anything but a lady’s lady. Her attitude is equally gruff and standoffish. All this also makes her a lonely and sympathetic character. As she’s thrown into this world of what she assumes are nothing but vapid and vain women, she instead finds intelligent, goal-oriented women, but more importantly she makes friends and, naturally, learns more about herself.
Bratt’s Matthews is a ladies’ man focused on a woman’s looks who’s always had respect for his fellow agent Gracie. Melling’s wonder makeover helps him see her in a new light, but her attitude keeps their jibe-trading going for comic effect rather than succumbing to the romance. Even funnier are Gracie’s constant head-butting with Melling. As expected, Caine effortlessly conveys Mellings’ disdain for her and the pride he has for his work and few but Caine could blend all that with a touch of fatherly love. Miss Rhode Island, played as cheery and anxious by Heather Burns, becomes fast friends with Gracie which makes for a fun, silly twist during the climax.
Through a series of smart decisions, director Donald Petrie, who the vault’s previously visited with Grumpy Old Men and Mystic Pizza, crafted a film that’s funny, engaging and just a wee-bit heartfelt. Miss Congeniality might seem hackneyed to some, but Sandra Bullock’s knack for comedy and the story’s peppy pace make it a go-to movie for easy laughs.