When a terrorist threat is made to the Miss United States pageant/scholarship program, the FBI must send in one of their undercover agents to find out the truth and stop disaster from occurring. But who can they send? Their list of possibilities is quickly narrowed to a single contender, Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), who is slender, pretty and fetching in a swimsuit. Now for the snag... she's also a hard-hitting, gun-toting tomboy whose demeanor is about as feminine as Dolph Lundgren. As events continue, it becomes apparent that disaster may well be nigh, and it's down to Hart to successfully imitate a pageant contestant, win the trust of the other ladies and discover who is planning to turn a harmless pageant into a horror movie.This 2000 movie was followed by a 2005 sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other!: Other hints of attraction and the urgency of the situation aside, Eric's cry of "Gracie!" as she fumbles with the rigged crown is filled with just the right emotion to invoke this trope. Props to Benjamin Bratt!
Baby Talk: When Eric (justifiably) balks at helping Gracie finish her self-defense demonstration, Gracie uses baby talk to gather support and encouragement from the crowd, and to shame him into helping her finish. He regrets it later (see below).
Demoted to Extra: Understandably, most of the pageant contestants. The only ones that were actually in the movie for any decent amount of time (aside from Gracie as New Jersey) were Rhode Island, California, New York, Texas, and Hawaii.
Fanservice: In a movie whose general premise requires casting several dozen of the most gorgeous women you can find? Where most scenes take place backstage where the girls are only half dressed in silk robes? Where several scenes are a literal parade of women in swimsuits? You're kidding!
Freudian Slip: After one of the losing contestants in the pageant suddenly comes out as being a lesbian as she walks off the stage, Stan Fields accidentally makes one.
"And we'll be right back with our five final lesbians - interviews!"
Groin Attack: The "G" in Gracie's impromptu "SING" self-defense course.
Guns in Church: "He had a gun!" "This is Texas. Everybody has a gun. My FLORIST has a gun."
Hidden Wire: Gracie wears one of these, unless she's just had an argument with someone at the FBI.
Hotter and Sexier: With an extra Incredibly Lame Pun for a bonus. When he see Cheryl's baton twirling at the preliminaries at the Alamo, she does a very innocent routine to patriotic music with a very conservative outfit. Later on, after Gracie encourages her to be more confident in herseld, she does a much sexier routine to hip-hop music (with batons on fire, hence the "hotter.")
Improbable Age: Miss USA contestants have to be between 18 and 27. Sandra Bullock was 35 when the first film was made (an in-movie case of Dawson Casting, since Gracie mentions in an off-hand remark that she's at least thirty, but the FBI are still trying to pass her off as being in her twenties.
While they tried to explain Bullock's age as her being the best they can find, a few other girls were too old as well. Heather Burns (Rhode Island) and Deirdre Quinn (Texas) were all right, being 25 and 27, respectively, but Wendy Raquel Robinson (California) and Melissa De Sousa (New York) were both 33.
Incredibly Lame Pun: The New York/Hawaii rivalry with all the barbs thrown back and forth finally culminated on pageant day. In all the chaos Hawaii asks New York, "What, no insults today?" New York, too stressed to really give a damn, halfheartedly snarks, "You're a Don Ho."
Ironic Name: Gracie is usually a nickname of "Grace," which is ironic since she's not really gracious (def. "Courteous, kind, and pleasant") or graceful (def. "Having or showing grace or elegance")
A Minor Kidroduction: We're introduced to Gracie when she's reading a Nancy Drew book in elementary school. She defends a boy she has a crush on from bullies, but when he calls her a loser for making it look like he needs a girl to protect him, she punches him in the face and calls him a wimp when he runs away.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Most of the girls come across as the stereotypes Gracie associates with pageants, but for the most part this is because the girls are all very well-trained in saying exactly the right things to get them the points needed to win, even if makes them seem brainless. Cheryl, who spends most of the film appearing to be a sweet and gentle Dumb Blonde, turns out to be a nuclear physicist.
Power Walk : In both films. The first is the reveal, where we see She Cleans Up Nicely. In the sequel, Gracie and her partner/bodyguard have one when they put on their dark suits.
Precision F-Strike: A loose wire getting reconnected resulted in Gracie getting a painful blast of feedback in her ear. When she screams out "Jesus Christ!" the other contestants are horrified. She eventually turns it around by saying she forgot to pray before eating breakfast.
Rape as Backstory: Cheryl was sexually assaulted by one of her college professors and never told anyone until she drunkenly confides in Gracie during a night out. Played with in that Cheryl doesn't exhibit any of the usual angst issues associated with the trope.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Gracie and Matthews, quite literally. They engage in physical combat twice.
Spoiler Title: Gee, I wonder who would win the Miss Congeniality special award?
Suddenly Sexuality: When Miss New York is eliminated, she calls out to her girlfriend in the audience and tells all the lesbians watching that if she can do it, so can they. Grace claps for her, and the producers wonder if they can say "lesbian" on air.
With another layer added, since when he asks if they can say "lesbian," his female assistant director manning the controls simply snarks, "You got a problem with that?"
Paired with Lipstick Lesbian as both Miss New York and her girlfriend are gorgeous (Fun Fact: The actress playing New York's girlfriend was supposed to be the original Miss New Jersey. A scene where Gracie and Eric confront her about her appearance in Arma-get-it-on was cut; the director felt bad about it, and offered the role of New York's girlfriend to her as an apology.)
Ungrateful Bastard: As a kid, Gracie defended a boy she liked from bullies, only to be insulted by him because he didn't want everyone to think he needed a girl to stand up for him. She responded by punching him in the nose.
What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: In the movie, Miss Rhode Island's baton twirling talent is treated this way. But during the talent scene at the Alamo, one girl's talent seemed to be making balloon animals.