As star-driven vehicles in which the leads have to get in touch with their
feminine side go, this comedy doesn't have much up on WHAT WOMEN WANT, even
though that film's seeker of inner softness was Mel Gibson. Hard-as-nails
Gracie Hart (the ever-appealing Sandra Bullock) lives for her job as an FBI
agent. After a de rigeur opening action sequence, Hart learns that a
Unabomer-type terrorist has threatened to blow up the upcoming Miss United
States beauty pageant, and she's the only suitable agent to go undercover as a
contestant. Gracie never wears dresses, doesn't own a hair brush and puts down
pageant participants as "bikini stuffers who only want world peace." But this
being a movie, there's no real problem. The Feds hire has-been pageant
consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine) to give Hart a crash makeover, and
presto: She's not only one of the girls, but a plausible contender for the
contest's ultimate prize. And she bags the baddie, high heels and tight skirts
notwithstanding. Some of the backstage things-falling-apart stuff is
reasonably funny, in a NIGHT AT THE OPERA-ish sort of way. But the movie is plagued by rampant implausibilities, from the identity of the villain(s) to
the incredible speed of Bullock's ugly duckling-to-swan transformation. In
fact, the script (two of whose auteurs have obvious roots in TV) seems
predicated on the notion that today's audiences will tolerate just about any
kind of plot hole, continuity lapse, or "I don't think so" moment.
Fortunately, the actors are almost good enough to make you forget such
concerns while you're watching. Caine's characterization could have lapsed
into gay caricature, but never does; Candice Bergen sparkles as the
shark-toothed pageant producer, who may have a hidden agenda; and William
Shatner's comic timing helps him nearly steal the picture, despite his
underwritten part as a Bert Parks-like emcee.
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