Miss Congeniality (2000)

Miss Congeniality came highly recommended by Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat. I think he and I have different taste in movies.

Sandra Bullock plays a rather slovenly female FBI agent who is selected by a co-worker she has a love/hate relationship with to go undercover and participate in a beauty pageant to catch a terrorist, so Michael Caine gives her an unrealistically rapid makeover, and she winds up making friends with her competitors, who are grateful to her for being herself and protecting them.

I tend to think of makeover movies as rather offensive, but I was impressed at the way Miss Congeniality transformed the “tough girl” character without requiring her to alter the core of her identity. Sandra Bullock’s character in fact expresses her own skepticism about the value of a beauty contest in assessing the worth of a person, but comes to believe that people aren’t ever as superficial as they seem, even—or especially—beauty pageant contestants.

And to be fair, makeover movies probably aren’t as superficial as they seem, either. Everybody loves a good Cinderella story; Cinderella is always kind and good before she gets the fancy dress and shoes, which is why we believe she deserves them.