We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The theme of Miss Congeniality is familiar: Within every tomboy lies a woman of beauty and grace, even if she’s spent the better part of 30-odd years beating up boys, wearing clunky men’s shoes, and swilling beer from the bottle. From the time she started kickin’ ass on the playground as a little miss, Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) didn’t care that she was a poor excuse for a female. She liked her steak with ketchup, dammit, and was quite unconcerned with the world of big hair and dieting until her masculine job—as an FBI agent—thrust her into a feminine world: as a contestant in the Miss United States pageant, the presumed next target of a terrorist group. Because Hart is the only female agent who’s not old, pregnant, or ghastly, it’s up to image consultant Vic (Michael Caine) to wax and buff her to a fine finish for her undercover gig. Although his initial diagnosis is that Gracie can’t be helped (“I haven’t seen a walk like that since Jurassic Park”), Vic accepts the challenge and, of course, is triumphant. He’s so successful, in fact, that not only does she pass as a contestant, but her partner (Benjamin Bratt) falls in love with her and she gets all teary-eyed talking about how she really does want world peace. (You see, makeup and a little kissin’ are all an otherwise happy tough gal needs to make her feel complete!) Bullock, who also produced the flick, does well with the physical comedy—I haven’t been so amused by a pratfall since the days of Cosmo Kramer—and her eye-rolling, I-can’t-believe-we’re-the-same-species sarcasm while among the cheery pageant contestants is predictable but entertaining. Although the film would have benefited from a more likely finish—shouldn’t Gracie have been relieved to take off those damn heels?—instead of its I’m-a-real-live-girl! ending, Miss Congeniality is fluffy fun. —Tricia Olszewski