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Monday, November 26, 2012

Miss Congeniality

With modern television being the way it is these days, one can sit down and watch as many as five hundred different channels depending on the cable/satellite television package that one might have.

I myself can only afford basic cable, but that's fine with me, as I really tend to watch a lot of television programs online through videos posted on network television websites, video sharing websites, and other forms of digital media.

And certainly with cable and satellite television having so many choices, there's millions of sitcoms, dramas, sporting events, and even full-length feature films airing on the five hundred channels you might have included in your entertainment packages.

But what happens when you have five hundred channels, and you STILL can't find anything to watch?

I'll readily admit to being one of those people who can't seem to find anything to watch on television some days. It seems almost like a first world problem...five hundred channels and nothing to watch.

Unfortunately, for every decent show on television these days, there are always about twenty-five others that are just horrible, cheesy, or so incredibly boring that they would put you in a coma in just a matter of minutes. Such is the curse of cable television, I suppose.

Do you want to know what I find most frustrating about cable television? The fact that some of the cable channels seem to play the same movies over and over again. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times that I have seen “Cocktail”, “Double Jeopardy”, or “Batman Forever” on cable television. It's almost as if all cable television channels own the rights to only ten different movies, and play them four times a day. I'm sure most of you know what I am talking about, right?

Today's blog entry is all about one of these particular movies that seems to air repeatedly on cable television. Worse still, it's a movie that could be classified as a “chick flick”. And yet, I believe that I've stumbled across this film so many times that I reckon I could recite the plot from memory.

That movie happens to be “Miss Congeniality”, which was released on December 22, 2000. The movie was directed by Donald Petrie, and starred Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen.

The movie begins with a flashback sequence in which a little boy is being picked on by a bully. A young Gracie Hart intervenes and beats up the bully who is picking on the boy in an effort to help him (and because she has a secret crush on him). Instead of showing his gratitude, he not only is disgusted that a girl had to bail him out of trouble, but goes so far as to criticize everything about Gracie...which earns him a punch in the face for his trouble.

Fast forward a few years, and Gracie Hart (now played by Sandra Bullock) is now working for the FBI alongside her partner, Eric Matthews (Bratt). Initially, she worked as a Special Agent who went out into the field, but after a mishap which leaves a member of her squad wounded by a bullet, she's forced onto a desk job. Which she hates.

But soon enough, the team gets word that a tragic event could spell doom for the 75th annual Miss United States Beauty Pageant, and the FBI is dispatched down to San Antonio, Texas (where the ceremony is being held) in order to prevent disaster from happening.

Naturally, Eric is selected by the team to go to San Antonio to stop the attack from the domestic terrorist simply known as “The Citizen”. However, the FBI also has the idea to send a female agent down to the pageant where she could go undercover as a contestant in hopes of infiltrating the plot from within.

And surprise, surprise, Gracie Hart is transformed into Gracie Lou Freebush, Miss New Jersey! Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Now, Gracie isn't exactly the most...girly girl of the bunch. She was always a tomboy by nature, liking most hobbies that boys liked including sports and martial arts (which ends up being one of the talents that she displays at the actual beauty contest). She even dressed like a tomboy, which sort of turned off pageant coach Victor Melling (Caine), who was already trying to regain the lustre lost from his reputation after his last client completely tore him apart emotionally. Nevertheless, he tries his hardest to get Gracie ready for the contest, which essentially means a complete head-to-toe makeover. Think transforming a GI Joe action figure into a Barbie doll.

A tough task, given that Gracie hates the idea of beauty pageants to begin with, accusing them of promoting anti-feminism.

A funny thing happens once Gracie arrives at the pageant and starts befriending other girls at the pageant. Some of the girls she starts to develop friendships with included...

Miss California (Wendy Raquel Robinson)
Miss Hawaii (Asia De Marcos)
Miss New York (Melissa De Sousa)
Miss Texas (Deirdre Quinn)
Miss Rhode Island (Heather Burns)

In fact, of all the contestants, Miss Rhode Island happens to be the one person who Gracie gets the closest too. Initially Gracie suspected her to be the one who was plotting the attack on the pageant, but quickly dismissed the idea the more that she got to know her. And besides, there were other suspects on the list.

The suspects included the director of the beauty pageant, Kathy Morningside (Bergen), herself a former winner. This pageant happens to be her last one, as she is in the process of being replaced by someone younger...the same fate that is about to befall the pageant's long time host Stan Fields (Shatner), who also ends up being a suspect. Frank Tobin (Steve Monroe) also becomes a suspect, as he is associated with Morningside (he happens to be her personal assistant).

As the movie progresses, the viewer soon finds the answers out to the following questions...

  1. Who is the person stalking the Miss United States Beauty Pageant?
  2. What is the dirty little secret that Miss Rhode Island has been keeping?
  3. What secret are two of the suspects hiding from the others?
  4. Who wins the title of Miss United States?
  5. What is the real extent of the relationship between Gracie and Eric?

All these questions will be answered and more whenever you get a chance to watch the movie (and considering that it seems to air at least six times a year on cable television, I'm sure you won't have much trouble finding it).

All in all though, I will say this. The movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be...and in all honestly, I am a little bit of a Sandra Bullock fan.

And now some behind the scenes trivia for “Miss Congeniality”.

  • The film ended up making $212 million at the box office.

  • The song that you hear during the opening scenes of the beauty contest is this one.

  • Screenwriter Marc Lawrence (with help from his then seven year old son) helped write the theme song for the Miss United States pageant.

  • Remember how in the Q & A portion of the pageant, Miss Rhode Island stated that her idea of a perfect date was April 25th? Believe it or not, that scene was inspired by a REAL-LIFE EVENT!
  • The original New Jersey was originally played by soap star Jennifer Gareis, but her part was left on the cutting room floor. Feeling bad, the director created another part for the lesbian lover of Miss New York!
  • Heather Burns was asked to dye her hair blonde for the movie, as she looked a little too much like Sandra Bullock.
  • Both Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt did their own fighting in the film.

  • William Shatner's character name of Stan Fields is a throwback to his Canadian heritage, as Stanfield's is a Canadian brand name of underwear.
  • Originally, Matt Dillon was cast in the role of Eric Matthews.
  • In the scene that takes place at a Starbucks, the employees were actual Starbucks employees.
  • Though Heather Burns learned how to twirl a baton for the movie, she refused to work with the fire baton, so stunt throwers were used in place.

And that is our look at “Miss Congeniality”.

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