(this review is the same as the prior DVD edition's review - done in 2000 - aside from the different supplemental listing.)
After a string of failures that really didn't do much for her career, the likable Sandra Bullock came back quite well during the Christmas season with "Miss Congeniality", which eventually made it over 100 million at the box office. She's a fun, solid actress and it's a sign of how much we want to see her succeed that I think other actresses might not have been still on such solid ground after features like "Speed 2".
"Miss Congeniality" isn't a groundbreaking film, but it simply does well at what its asked to do - be funny. Here she plays Gracie Hart, a tomboy who beat up the other kids at recess and then turned herself into an FBI agent. After things don't go particularly well, she finds herself assigned to a beauty pageant to uncover the possibility of a terrorist threat. As Gracie is hardly a potential contestant at the begining, a consultant Vic Melling (Michael Caine) is called in to transform her from a grumpy agent to a well-dressed beauty. Only, they have to get past the pageant's leader (Candice Bergen) and its master of ceremonies (William Shatner) first.
The screenplay is by Marc Lawrence, a writer that I believe I said I'd hoped "would never write anything again" after the Bullock film "Forces Of Nature", but he's since improved and there's some very funny bits throughout "Congeniality". Although, if you listen to the commentary track on this DVD with Lawrence and Bullock, he apparently didn't write many of the best parts of the picture.
The film isn't without some problems - there's some stretches without laughs and times where the film doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, but the film is able to string enough amusing situations together to make the movie enjoyable. That, and there's some great actors in the mix to make the jokes work better than they might have been. This isn't a favorite Bullock performance, but she's good here. Shatner and Bergen (and especially Caine) are fine in supporting performances, as well. The film also boasts some great technical credits, such as cinematographer László Kovács("Ghostbusters", "My Best Friends Wedding").
Overall, "Miss Congeniality" works. It's an enjoyable little film that doesn't re-invent the genre, but brings enough good jokes and actors to the table to make it worthwhile.
VIDEO:Although not quite as "near-perfect" as some of the other recent efforts from Warner Brothers ("Red Planet") in terms of image quality, "Miss Congeniality" still looks wonderful on this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Sharpness and detail are both wonderful throughout the presentation, although the level of depth to the image is especially pleasing on some of the film's bright, outdoor sequences.
There's the slightest bit of edge enhancement a couple of times, but that's about it for the flaws. To be picky, I did notice literally one or two speckles on the print used, but they were so minor that I hardly noticed them. Other than that, this is close to flawless.
Colors are excellent, looking bright, bold and rich, with no flaws. Flesh tones are natural, and black level is solid, as well. For Warner titles, there's increasingly little to say because they're simply getting better and better. The layer change is nicely placed, but I managed to still notice it at 46:23.
SOUND: Sort of like the film itself, "Miss Congeniality" doesn't re-invent the "Comedy Sound", but brings enough to the table to make it more enjoyable than what the genre usually offers. Yes, most of the film still is dialogue-driven, and audio comes mostly from the front, but there are occasional scenes that open up the audio a bit more.
Surrounds are used for the music and occasional sound effects, and their minor use often adds some enjoyment to the scene. Audio quality is excellent, as the film maintains a crisp, smooth audio quality that really is enjoyable to listen to. Music sounds especially great, such as the music at a club scene about an hour. Dialogue remains clear, natural and easily heard. Not an agressive soundtrack, but above average for a comedy.
Commentary: This is a commentary from actress/producer Sandra Bullock and producer/writer Marc Lawrence. I'm usually pretty pleased with commentaries unless they're tremendously boring - but I'm more than happy to highly recommend a great one - and this is certainly a great one. Lawrence and Bullock are obviously great friends and are apparently able to rip on each other's work in a joking way. Much of the track is filled with some wonderful humor as the two goof on each other and the picture itself, but they figure out ways to inject some information about the making of the film between jokes.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Donald Petrie. I wish that the director had been paired up with someone else, as alone he doesn't have a chance of making his track as entertaining as the Bullock/Lawrence track. He does provide a respectable amount of information about what it took to make the film, but he does so in a rather unenergetic manner, and there's a few pauses of silence throughout the track. It's not an awful commentary by any means, but the first track is the one that's recommended.
Documentaries: "Preparing For The Pageant" and "The Pageant" are both included, and although not hugely informative, they at least do provide some interesting interviews and behind-the-scenes scenery. Most entertaining, and the reason why many will likely watch both, are the outtakes occasionally inserted throughout both, and the deleted scene that ends each one.
There's also the trailer.
New Here:: "Do You Have What It Takes to be a Beauty Queen?" Quiz , 8-minute look at "Miss Congeniality 2" and 3 deleted scenes. There's also a movie ticket to "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Dangerous" (offer expires 5/7/2005.) There's also an additional "Deluxe Edition" with a CD soundtrack for "Miss Congeniality 2".
Final Thoughts: "Miss Congeniality" is a rather predictable feature, but it's funny and well-acted enough to be satisfying. Warner Brothers has put together a very enjoyable disc, with good audio/video quality and some great extras - especially the Bullock/Lawrence commentary. There's not a lot of extras here that are new, however, and that leads me to not recommend it to those who've already got the prior edition. However, those looking to pick up the movie should take a look at this release, as it provides a little more in the way of supplements and the free movie ticket.