Donald Petrie (2000, Warner Bros.)
Starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, William Shatner, and
A no-nonsense FBI agent must go under cover as a beauty queen contestant.
March 23rd, 2001 in the Theatre
Surprisingly funny, but
dragged down a bit by so much exposition and the revelation of a Big Bad
The story was also quite touching, even if Gracie, our leading lady, was just doing her job. As far as I'm concerned, she went beyond her duty in trying to get information. She actually entered the girls' world for a short time.
In a humourous scene that starts the movie, we see Gracie as a young girl, defending a boy from bullies, and whipping them. The boy, of course, is not grateful, because he will forever have a reputation as a wimp who had to be saved by a girl! And that continues into her adult life, where she has no friends, takes solace in her job, and still acts without thinking. Which nearly gets a co-worker at the FBI killed.
She is relieved of service, until they get a letter telling of a bomb to be exploded during the Miss United States competition. She is the only one near enough in
size and potential to enter. Everyone is dubious, and Gracie wants nothing to do with it. She is convinced by one of her partners, Eric, to go, because it's his first command, and he knows he can succeed with her by his side.
She nearly quits several times, especially when it comes time for her makeover. Michael Caine is definitely the best part of this movie. He steals every scene he is in, with his witty remarks, his biting sarcasm, and his exasperated attempts to make Gracie into a person even remotely qualifying for this competition.
Despite herself, Gracie gets drawn into the event. She can't stand the girls because they represent all that she hates in life -beauty for the sake of beauty, and very few brains. But she gets drawn into their world despite herself, and bonds with several of them.
The funniest parts take place with her mentor, Caine's character. Teaching her to walk gracefully, she is forced to respond "that man has to be very comfortable with who he is to walk like that!". She can't walk down a stairway properly until she hands him her six or seven guns. Her eating habits nearly make him sick, and he nearly dies when she reveals her "talent" (to which he responds "you will not have sex on that stage!"). She plays rings around crystal glasses with her fingers, making music. She then jumps off stage at a man who she thinks is drawing a gun ("he had a gun" "this is
Texas; of course he had a gun!").
She also bonds with the other girls, especially Miss Rhode Island, when asked to get some more information about one of them, taking them to a bar in which they can get into paint fights. There, she learns that the
organizer of the pageant could be the bomber, because she's getting fired, and she resents the organization because she was voted "runner-up" many years ago, instead of Miss United States.
Unfortunately, the bureau thinks they've caught the bomber, thus ending the
mission. Gracie decides to stay on, and in a very funny scene where she reaches for the crown off the winner's head, getting into a cat fight she easily wins, she discovers she was right, and flings the sabotaged crown into the air, where it explodes.
Unfortunately, the villains, once revealed, turn into comic book types. They snarl, pout, say campy things like "you have nothing on me", and leave evidence around where anybody could find it. We're just lucky that Gracie didn't decide to break into her office.
By the end of it, Gracie has discovered her female side, is "proud of my breasts", and doesn't hate any of the girls. They don't hate her, either, even the ones with black eyes from the fight on stage. She gets to participate in a speech that made me cringe, but also wins the love of Eric, whom she teases to no end.
Bullock was funny in most of her scenes. For a beauty pageant girl, she was quite attractive, though several of the dresses did not sit well on her, revealing the fact that she's getting older and putting on a bit of weight. The weight is fine, as I have found her too skinny in her early movies. But don't put her in a skin hugging dress designed for fifteen year olds. Still, she managed to pull off the beauty part of it. She also demonstrated abundant intelligence,
especially when compared to the other contestants (one, when asked about her ideal date, says "April 25th", which had me bursting out laughing). And her martial arts demonstration in front of the judges was a good and funny setup for the fight later on. I quite enjoyed it.