196. Miss Congeniality

★★★

Blake Snyder was Hollywood screenwriter whose biggest hit was the Disney movie Blank Check. But Snyder became much better known for “Save the Cat,” a sturdy, easy-to-read instructional guide to screenwriting that has become a de-facto bible of sorts to current and aspiring movie scribes. In the book, Snyder looks at movies that, while not considered legendary, are thought of as pop culture classics, gems like Legally Blonde and The Wedding Singer you’ll gladly rewatch anytime they’re thrown on TBS, FX or appear in your Netflix queue.

One of the films that Snyder covers is 2000’s Miss Congeniality, a fairly by-the-books screenplay that adheres to the necessary storytelling beats. We’ve got a main character who undergoes a personal transformation both inside and out (Gracie Hart, played by Sandra Bullock), a B story that compliments its A story (Hart’s attraction to FBI agent Eric Matthews, played by Benjamin Bratt), a wiser, older mentor who serves as a point of comic relief (Victor Melling, played by Michael Caine), and a slew of memorable one-liners and endearing comedic situations that propel the film not necessarily to greatness, but to extreme rewatchability.

It doesn’t feel old or dated 17 years later, with Bullock giving an emboldened and kick ass performance as Gracie. Caine is great too as Melling, a character who could easily be reduced to just simple gay stereotypes but is a fully-fleshed human. And the personal relationships Gracie shares with all of her other pageant mates make up the soul of the film. For a movie that follows all the requisite story curves of a standard Hollywood comedy, Miss Congeniality still feels pretty damn clever.

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