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And the
Miss Congeniality
Award Goes To...

Quick: Name the top 3 actresses, based on talent, in the business today. Plenty of common responses here: Meg Ryan, Angelina Jolie, Helen Hunt, Annette Bening. One name that likely didn't show up on that list of finalists is Sandra Bullock. 

Though she might not take the top prize for her acting chops, Bullock's popularity with

audiences and good looks make her a shoo-in for Hollywood's "Miss Congeniality"--which also happens to be the name of her latest film.

A majority of the roles Bullock has played have been that of the typical girl next door. She's portrayed everything from the small-town prom queen to the inner city bus station attendant, but those roles all allowed her to be feminine and sexy. Anytime she has stepped out of that stereotype ("Demolition Man," "Speed 2") her performances have been unconvincing at best and categorized her as the proverbial "one-trick pony." 

However, that may have changed with "Miss Congeniality," the latest movie in the long line of beauty pageant parodies. Here Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a tough-as-nails FBI agent forced to go undercover at a Miss United States pageant to prevent a bombing.

Along with Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt, "Demolition Man," "Clear and Present Danger" and quite possibly best known as "Mr. Julia Roberts" for the moment) and a team of FBI specialists, Hart takes over New Jersey's spot in the pageant . She

Sandra Bullock stars in the Warner Brothers pageant parody Miss Congeniality

goes about her business of making everything safe in pageant-land . . . and getting everyone else fat and drunk in the process.

The team of Bullock and Bratt works sufficiently well. With a few more movies under his belt, Bratt could emerge as a leading man for the new millennium. 

The rest of the cast is brilliant. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, is hilarious as the pageant's self-absorbed host. Candace Bergen, Emmy-winner as TV's "Murphy Brown," is great as the overbearing pageant director. Perhaps the best performance in the movie is turned in by Oscar-winner Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules"), who plays Vic Melling. A not-quite-right beautician, Melling has the unenviable task of preparing Gracie for the pageant in less than two days.


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