America’s Sweetheart Plays An American Sweetheart … AGAIN

What’s this? Another cute little feel-good movie? Yes, Sandra Bullock is back in the theaters, continuing her well established typecast as an all-American beauty in “Miss Congeniality.”

Clumsy, geeky, and temperamental Grace Hart (Bullock) is an FBI agent who is constantly screwing up. After royally messing up an operation, she’s corralled by Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) into becoming an undercover beauty pageant contestant, alias “Miss New Jersey, Gracie Lou Freebush.”

And so, the makeover begins. With the aid of the ambiguously gay pageant consultant, Victor Melling (a deviantly sarcastic Michael Caine), Gracie goes from homely to hottie in three days.

During her pageant experience, Grace acquires a number of beautiful, superficial new friends who only want one thing in life: “World peace.”

“Miss Congeniality” features numerous well-known TV stars such as Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”), playing Kathy Morningside, the militantly poised and polished pageant director, and William Shatner (“Star Trek”) as Stan Fields, the hokey-pokey pageant host.

Bergen was excellent as Morningside, a pageant winner from back in the day. She’s polished, poised, and pissy — everything one could look for in the head of the Miss United States pageant.

Shatner also held his ground as the somewhat fruity pageant host. He came off as plastic and superficial, sort of a Ken Doll icon for senior citizens.

Benjamin Bratt lights up the big screen with what could almost be considered a leading role. As head of the operation going into the pageant, Eric and Gracie continually butt heads, making for some witty dialogue and not a little sexual tension.

Bratt is most well known for his role on television’s “Law and Order” but has recently hit the big screen in several small parts. But with his ability he’ll be a Hollywood lead in no time (his looks don’t hinder him, either).

While this movie was well put together and well written, it won’t be the blockbuster hit it aspires to be, nor will it put director Donald Petrie on the same list as Spielberg or Lucas. Petrie has, in fact, had several duds both on the big screen and TV. His only true saving grace is “Grumpy Old Men”. This is a mediocre picture in the whole spectrum of film, and will be soon forgotten.

“Miss Congeniality” IS a sweet little picture; it’s clever and funny with at least a minimal amount of substance to it. However, it’s another classic example of Sandra Bullock’s well-known chick flick typecast. She’s the all-American sweetheart next door. Whether she’s a reluctant witch (“Practical Magic”), a recovering alcoholic (“28 Days”) or a washed out divorcee (“Hope Floats”) she’s always sweet and strong and manages to pull through, occasionally picking up a soul mate along the way.

The problem with Bullock is that she restricts herself to this genre. She started out with “Speed” and “The Net,” but then the chick flick bug bit her and she can’t seem to get away. What she needs to do is a really whacked out sci-fi movie and get out of the rut she has created for herself.

All in all, this movie would be good for a girls’ night out, a first date, or even some quality time with the parents. But if you’re looking for something really funny with the whole pageant vibe going, try renting “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” You’ll get more for your money.