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Miss Congeniality

reviewed by Lynn Barker

What kicks serious ass, looks cute in a bikini, chases mad bombers and snorts when she laughs? It's Sandra Bullock in MISS CONGENIALITY! Sandra says one crazy scene in front of the Alamo where she wears a "Bavarian tutu" was enough to end her career! (Check out Sandra in her Bavarian duds on the official website).

FBI agent GRACIE HART (Sandra Bullock) has been kickin' butt and takin' names since grade school. She takes her job extra seriously and is one of the guys. This is especially easy since she wears no make-up (never heard of tweezers) and dresses like a bag lady. After Gracie blows an FBI bust and a fellow agent is shot, her boss McDONALD (Ernie Hudsen) puts her on desk duty. Gracie, the brightest mind in her group of agents, can't keep from working on the case of "The Citizen" a mad bomber who has been spreading terror nationally.

When The Citizen sends another threat letter, it's Gracie who figures out that he's going to blow something (or someone) up at the Miss United States beauty pageant in Texas. The FBI needs an undercover "babe" quick and Gracie is the last female anyone thinks of but, hey, she's got a bod under all those bulky unisex clothes! Gracie, a true feminist, hates the whole idea of beauty pageants but it's her only chance to go back on active duty.

It's miracle worker pageant consultant VICTOR MELLING (Michael Caine) who transforms the awkward tomboy into Cinderella and studly fellow agent ERIC MATTHEWS (Benjamin Bratt) takes real notice. Once at the pageant, the transformed Gracie (posing as Miss New Jersey) makes friends with the other contestants, realizes that they aren't all brainless "Barbies", solves the case and saves the day and her newfound friends when the bomber strikes.

MISS CONGENIALITY is a laugh riot and much of the credit goes to Bullock who excels here in both physical slapstick comedy (a la Lucille Ball) and charm. It's fun to see her character's transformation from frump to femme fatale and watch her learn that she can be brainy, physically strong and also a hottie! Ben Bratt (Julia Robert's main squeeze) is macho yet vulnerable and Michael Caine is hilarious as the pageant consultant who plays "fairy" godfather to Bullock's Gracie. There is plenty of action mixed in with the humor and budding romance. This flick is an uplifting, fun way to spend a holiday nite at the movies. Big recommend from this critic.

Rated PG-13

Directed by: Donald Petrie
Screenplay by: Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford, Caryn Lucas
Starring: Sandra Bullock as Gracie
Hart Benjamin Bratt as Eric Matthews
Michael Caine as Victor Melling
Candice Bergen as Kathy Morningside
William Shatner as Sam Fields
Ernie Hudsen as McDonald

Official Website: www.misscongeniality.net