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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Donald Petrie
Cast:
Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, Ernie Hudson, William Shatner, John DiResta, Heather Burns, Melissa De Sousa, Steve Monroe
Writing Credits:
Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford, Caryn Lucas

Tagline:
Unpolished. Unkempt. Unleashed. Undercover.

Synopsis:
Legs waxed. Lips glossed. Gun ready. FBI Agent Gracie Hart is going undercover as a hopeful eager to be the next Miss United States. But Gracie doesn't have a beauty-pageant bone in her body.

Sandra Bullock gets physical in Miss Congeniality, bringing her powerhouse talent for physical comedy to the role of an operative posing as a pageant contestant in order to ferret out a terrorist targeting the event. Michael Caine deliciously plays the frustrated consultant hired to turn the FBI's Dirty Harriet into a poised beauty. And Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner and Ernie Hudson also score points for hilarity in this box-office smash.

Box Office:
Budget
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$13.853 million on 2668 screens.
Domestic Gross
$106.807 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $39.92
Release Date: 3/15/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor Sandra Bullock and Co-Screenwriter Marc Lawrence
• Audio Commentary with Director Donald Petrie
• “Preparing for the Pageant” Featurette
• “The Pageant” Featurette
• Missing Scenes
• Sneak Peek at Miss Congeniality 2
• ”Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Beauty Queen?” Quiz
• Theatrical Trailer
Miss Congeniality 2 CD Soundtrack


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RELATED REVIEWS


Miss Congeniality: Deluxe Edition Giftset (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 7, 2005)

Winter 2000’s Miss Congeniality didn’t exactly crush box office records, but its $106 million take made it the second-biggest hit of Sandra Bullock’s career after 1994’s Speed. No, $100 million isn’t the impressive figure it used to be; 22 films made at least that amount in 2000, and Miss Congeniality was 21st on that list.

Nonetheless, it’s a more-than-respectable take, especially for a sweet little comedy like this. Personally, although I’ve questioned some of Bullock’s choices, I’m happy to see her in a hit, as I think she’s an appealing actress. Hey, she’s a local girl too; she grew up only about 15 miles away from me, so I have to root for someone who could theoretically have been a high school classmate!

Miss Congeniality isn’t a classic, but it largely does what it sets out to do. After a Unabomber-esque nutbag called “The Citizen” threatens the tranquility of the Miss United States pageant, the FBI step in to secure the event. They decide to place an agent in disguise as a contestant. After the most logical candidate turns out to be on maternity leave, they turn to the next best thing: unkempt and masculine Gracie Hart (Bullock).

Although Hart seems completely wrong for the task, a make-over from pageant consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine) turns her into a babe, and as her assignment progresses, she gets to know the other contestants and starts to become more of a well-rounded woman instead of the rough work-obsessed she-male seen at the beginning. She even manages to impress hunky agent Matthews (Benjamin Bratt), who now comes to see her in a different light.

As a whole, Miss Congeniality presents a fairly predictable piece, and it starts off slowly. Some of the early gags fired well, and I must acknowledge that the filmmakers’ attempts to make Bullock look unattractive are surprisingly successful. Usually when movies show pretty women who are supposed to be skanky, their actual charms still seem apparent. That’s not the case with Gracie, who presents a fairly scary image until her makeover. Credit Bullock with having the lack of ego to allow herself to be presented in such an unpleasant light; her crude behavior nicely plays up Hart’s apparent lack of physical charms.

Granted, it’s not exactly a shock when Gracie comes out as a babe - it’s not like we’ve never seen Bullock before - but the movie capitalizes on this well. Nonetheless, I feel that the film drags a bit until these scenes; the first act isn’t bad, but it doesn’t move as smoothly as I would have liked.

Congeniality picks up once Gracie became firmly ensconced in the pageant. Here we meet all of her competitors, including the surprisingly sexy Miss Rhode Island, played by Heather Burns. Although Burns sports a look that isn’t usually my cup of tea - she’s presented as a prim and innocent blonde - I must say that I really liked her nonetheless. Wow! What a babe!

Lustful thoughts aside, Burns also provides a nice performance, as do all of the capable supporting cast. In addition to Bratt and two-time Oscar-winner Caine, we also find strong additions such as Candice Bergen as the pageant organizer, William Shatner as the show’s clueless host, and Ernie Hudson as the FBI chief. All of them plus many others offer nice turns in their roles, and this support helps make the piece work better than it could have.

Nonetheless, Congeniality remains Bullock’s baby to drown, so it’s nice to be able to report that she handles the role with aplomb. Bullock manages both the physical and verbal comedy well, and she makes Hart’s transformation from homely brute into sexy and smart babe move smoothly. That’s not an easy change to execute, and it usually comes across in a hurried and ham-handed manner, but Bullock proves her comedic worth in this role.

Director Donald Petrie does nothing to make the film excel, but he provides leadership capable enough to keep the project on track. Truthfully, Miss Congeniality is a somewhat awkward presentation, and the story doesn’t always - or even usually - progress in the most fluid manner, but the charm of the actors is almost always enough to make it work. At the end of the day, Miss Congeniality was a fun trifle that left me with a smile.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Miss Congeniality appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not surprisingly, the picture looked consistently excellent, with almost no problems on display.

Sharpness seemed very good. One or two wider shots showed some modest softness, but these concerns were minor. As a whole, the movie appeared crisp and well-defined. A little shimmering showed up in some backgrounds, but this was exceptionally modest, and no jagged edges appeared. Print flaws seemed absent. At no point did I discern any signs of grain, grit, speckles, scratches, tears, or other defects in this clean, fresh image.

Colors looked bright and vivid throughout the film. Due to its beauty pageant setting, we were treated to a nice variety of bold and vibrant hues, and the DVD reproduced these well, with very accurate and clean tones on display. Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail usually came across as appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. A couple of nighttime scenes looked slightly too dark, but these were the exceptions. The DVD presented a simply terrific picture.

Also good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Miss Congeniality. As one might expect of this sort of comedy, the soundfield usually stuck pretty close to the front spectrum. Across the forward speakers, the audio presented a solid image that created a decent environment. Music offered a good stereo presence, and effects were appropriate and well-localized. The surrounds mostly stayed in general reinforcement mode, with most of the rear activity functioning mainly to back-up the forward spectrum. However, the surrounds showed greater life during some of the action sequences, as both gunshots and explosions reverberated nicely in the rear channels.

Audio quality seemed to be consistently strong. Dialogue appeared warm and natural, and it displayed no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were crisp and realistic, and they showed nice clarity without any distortion. Music appeared clean and smooth, and it occasionally offered some solid low end during a few of the pop songs. Effects also showed good depth and dynamics, and the entire track possessed quite satisfactory range and quality. The mix complemented the material and worked well.

Although the picture and sound quality of this new Miss Congeniality Deluxe Edition replicated those of the original 2001 release, it added a few new extras. Most of them appeared on the prior set, so I’ll note the exclusive features with an asterisk.

Miss Congeniality’s supplements start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from actor/producer Sandra Bullock and co-screenwriter/co-executive producer Marc Lawrence. The pair also worked together on 1999’s Forces Of Nature, and they display a nice, comfortable chemistry during this screen-specific track. I’m not sure I learned a whole lot about the production of the film, but I didn’t really care, as the track offered a breezy and entertaining affair. Bullock and Lawrence crack on each other frequently and the fun they had while they recorded the commentary came through nicely. In truth, I expect that a fair amount of material was conveyed, as the track did provide a decent look at production details. Nonetheless, it’s the entertaining tone that stuck with me and that made this an above-average commentary.

In comparison, the second track from director Donald Petrie was a bit of a dud. Granted, being the second commentator can be a tough position, as the person inevitably will repeat some of the information we’ve already learned from the first recording. That problem occurs here, but it wasn’t the main reason I didn’t much care for the track. Instead, its main flaw stemmed from Petrie’s low-key and uninvolved tone. The commentary contained too many empty spots, and when Petrie spoke, he often provided little information. While I didn’t much enjoy this track, I must acknowledge that some bias probably affected my opinion; I found the prior commentary to be so entertaining that the second one almost inevitably would be a disappointment. As such, I’d rate Petrie’s commentary as a mediocre one, but not a total dog.

In addition to the original theatrical trailer, the DVD includes two featurettes. Called “Preparing for the Pageant” (six minutes, 45 seconds) and “The Pageant” (7:46), the two function as companion pieces in more ways than just implied by their titles. Although both focus on different aspects of the production, they’re not as “cut and dried” as their names might indicate. Each looks at a number of issues in regard to the shoot, and we find a nice little mix of interviews with participants, film clips, and the shots from the set. Also, at the end of each featurette, we get some deleted scenes. Ultimately, both were superficial but fun. I didn’t learn a ton about the production, but the programs provided some decent information and a lot of interesting “behind the scenes” images.

Fans will probably be interested in the *sneak peek for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. The preview goes for eight minutes, 26 seconds and includes movie snippets, behind the scenes bits, and comments from Bullock, Lawrence, director John Pasquin, and actors Regina King, Heather Burns, Diedrich Bader, Treat Williams and William Shatner. They discuss challenges with making a sequel and the new one’s story. Don’t expect anything more than a glorified trailer, as this featurette simply promotes the new movie.

Three *Additional Scenes run a total of five minutes, 47 seconds. They include “The Dancing Scene”, “The Wedding Scene” and “The De-Throning of Miss New Jersey”. All of these come with audio introductions from Petrie; he gives us a little background about the sequences and tells us why they were cut. “The Wedding Scene” is the most significant and will look familiar to anyone who saw the trailer, as it includes a good line about Gracie’s sexuality. None of them are terribly memorable, though.

Called *Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Beauty Queen?, this quiz comes hosted by William Shatner. It asks you the sort of questions you’d get if you competed. It’s quite long, and it ends with a message from Shatner about your potential success. Since that end note will depend on your answers, the game has some replayability.

On a separate CD, we get the *soundtrack to Miss Congeniality 2. It includes 12 songs, most of which consist of oldies like “Proud Mary” from Ike and Tina Turner, “I’ll Take You There” by the Staples Singers, and “New Attitude” from Patti LaBelle. In addition, it includes new tracks from Esthero and Natasha Bedingfield. Do those names mean anything to anyone else? I’ve never heard of them. Except maybe for Tina, there’s no music on this CD that I like, but if the tunes interest you, it’s a nice addition to the set.

Does this Deluxe Edition lose anything from the earlier DVD? Yes, though not much. The perfunctory cast and crew listings don’t show up here. I didn’t miss them.

With Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock finally broke out of her long box office slump, and she did so with style. While not a great film, this beauty pageant based farce succeeds due to the fun situations presented and a slew of solid performances from Bullock and her many able costars. The DVD provides strong picture and sound plus some nice extras; the audio commentary from Bullock and the film’s co-writer was especially entertaining.

Should fans pursue this Deluxe Edition of Miss Congeniality? If they don’t already own the prior DVD, then maybe. The DE offers everything in the prior package along with a few new disc-based extras and a CD soundtrack, but it sells for a high list price of almost $40. That might be worth it if you want the CD, but otherwise it’s too steep, especially since the old DVD now lists for about $15; you’ll pay an extra $10 for very minor disc-based extras.

Also, if you do have the old DVD, I can’t recommend this one. It’s a nice set but there’s not enough new stuff here to warrant a repurchase.

A few purse-strings notes: for one, you can buy the DE on its own without the CD. It goes for about $25 list. Again, that’s about $10 more than the old DVD, and the new disc-based extras aren’t worth that much money. For those who buy the Deluxe Edition with CD by early May 2005, however, you’ll get a bonus: a free ticket to Miss Congeniality 2. I don’t factor that into my ratings, but it makes the DE+CD much more appealing and the set to get if you can take advantage of the movie ticket. It expires May 7, 2005; the movie itself hits screens March 24.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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