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.
The first movie contains examples of:
- Ambiguously Gay: Victor Melling (Michael Caine), the man hired to teach Grace how to be feminine.Victor Melling: [teaching Gracie how to glide] See? Glide. It's all in the buttocks. Don't I look pretty?Gracie Hart: It takes a very secure man to walk like that.
- And of course played with later on...Victor Melling: He's with me.Eric Matthews: I'm not "with him" with him, you know? It's not like...Victor Melling: Come on, Muffin!
- Of course, he is very eager to get Eric to join Gracie and him for lunch when he first meets him...
- And of course played with later on...
- Annoying Laugh: Whenever Gracie laughs, she also does an oinking-like snort.
- 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!
- Background Halo: Cathy Morningside gets a Background Crown.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: The FBI agents.
- 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).
- Beautiful All Along: Gracie.
- Beauty Contest: The central premise.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Hart and Matthews, big time. The more refreshing part is that the sexual tension is clearly present before she gets the makeover, which keeps him from being a Satellite Love Interest.
- Betrayal by Inaction: As Gracie frantically tries to plead her case to her superior, she is chewed out and dismissed while her partner stands there silently, never saying a word in her defense. Afterwards, she lashes out at him, who snaps, "Don't look at me like I betrayed you or something". To which she responds, "No, betrayal implies actually doing something. You just stood there."
- Brick Joke: During the pageant when Gracie is trying to get at Cheryl, she punches Mary Jo in the face. In the finale, Mary Jo can be seen wearing a band-aid on her nose.
- California Doubling: The first movie was entirely filmed in Texas, despite starting in New York (to make for a more convincing street, Austin had brown plastic bags of fake trash and fake NYC taxi cabs). The second is mostly on location, except for a New York scene which clearly has a Las Vegas hotel in the background.
- The Cast Showoff: An in-movie example. When Gracie is stuck without a talent before the show, she decides to improv and show her FBI combat training instead.
- Also, the actresses are actually doing the talent tricks — except for Cheryl with the fire batons. Heather Burns was willing to learn how to twirl, but not to expose herself to flames (a professional replaces her).
- Chekhov's Gun: Gracie's water glass trick. Also the "hits" to her enemies' instep and nose (in the prologue), and solar plexus and groin. SING!
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Cheryl.
- Concert Climax: The end.
- Cute Clumsy Girl: Gracie, even before they put her in something other than sneakers.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gracie and Eric and Victor.
- 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.
- Dirty Harriet: Variant.Victor Melling: They've got their Southern Belles, their Midwestern farmer's daughters, spunky Western cowgirls, and I have... Dirty Harriet.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Victor does this when Gracie tries to point out that the crown is rigged:Gracie: It's the crown!
Victor: Yes, it is! You can taste it now, can't you?
[Gracie is taken to the stage, wildly pointing at her head while she protests about the crown, while Victor cheers her on]
Victor: Yes, yes. You wear the crown, be the crown, you are the crown!
- Drunk on Milk: One of the first scenes shows Gracie at a bar ordering "a pint" and the bartender asking if she's sure. He hands her a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
- Embarrassing Nickname: When Eric creates her cover ID, he gives her the name "Gracie Lou Freebush," a name she made fun of earlier in the movie and that she absolutely loathes.
- Extended Disarming: Gracie can hide an amazing number of weapons in her pageant gown.
Victor: What? No armored car?Gracie: That would be in my other dress.
- And donuts.
- 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!"
- Fun with Acronyms: Gracie demonstrates a well-known self-defense mnemonic:Gracie Hart: (on defending against an attack from the rear) Just remember to SING: Solar plexus! Instep! Nose! Groin!
- Glad I Thought of It
- Groin Attack: The "G" in Gracie's impromptu "SING" self-defense course.
- Guns in Church:Gracie: He had a gun!
Cathy: 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 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 herself, 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.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Mentioned as the one time one of Victor's girls didn't win the crown during his heyday:"The year we lost, the winner was a deaf-mute. You can't beat that."
- Ironic Echo: "It is not a beauty pageant — it is a scholarship program!"
[rolls eyes] Yeah, yeah.
- 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")
- Like a Daughter to Me: Vic says that if he had a daughter, she'd be like Gracie. Of course, he backpedals and says that's the reason why he doesn't have children.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Miss Texas certainly wants to win and looks shocked and furious when she doesn't — but she still helps Gracie out and is nice to the other girls.
- Meaningful Echo: "I really do want World Peace".
- 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.
- Name's the Same: Eric Matthews
- Never My Fault: At the end, when Morningside's murder attempt is exposed and she is arrested by Gracie, she blames everyone and everything but herself.Morningside: [to Gracie] You think you saved something tonight, but all you did was to destroy the dream of young women all over this country!
Gracie: What, you think that their dream is to get blown up?
- 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.
- Painful Body Waxing
- Panty Shot: Of a sort. Gracie wears frilly bloomers as part of her "talent show" outfit.
- 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.
- Recitation Handclasp: As part of Miss California's opera stuff.
- Right Behind Me: Eric's boss doesn't appreciate being Photoshopped into a bikini. Eric's boss is male.Eric Matthews: We were just looking for someone to go undercover at the Pageant, sir.McDonald: And I'm the best we got. That doesn't inspire much confidence.
- Running Gag: "You think I'm goooorgeous, you want to kissss me..."
- Second Place Is for Winners: Gracie in the end of the film.
- Share the Male Pain: The entire audience groans and folds up a little when Eric gets hit with the G of Gracie's self-defense course.
- Gender flipped when two male agents wince sympathetically after hearing about Gracie's bikini wax.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Gracie.
- Shout-Out: "I'm glidin' here!"
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Gracie and Matthews, quite literally. They engage in physical combat twice.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Gracie and Victor, as best summed up by this:Victor: In place of friends and relationships, you have sarcasm and a gun!
Gracie: Oh, I have sarcasm? When every word that comes out of your mouth is dripping with disdain?
- 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.)
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Eric, to match with Gracie.
- Tomboy: Gracie.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Gracie and every other contestant, except probably for Miss New York.
- Triumphant Reprise: Tom Jones's "She's a Lady" first plays as Gracie arrives with the pageant girls (in a bit of irony). It gets played again at the end when Gracie gets the Miss Congeniality award.
- 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.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Gracie and Matthews.
- Weaponized Headgear: Gracie Hart uses the Miss United States crown to knock a saboteur hiding behind a Statue Of Liberty backdrop off the stage, since it was rigged with explosives.
- 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.
- You, Get Me Coffee: Mocked.
- Your Head Asplode: The Miss United States crown was rigged to blow off the head of whoever was crowned the winner of the contest. Fortunately, Gracie Hart finds this out and gets it off Miss Rhode Island's head before it detonates.
The second movie contains examples of:
- Chickification: A major plot point. A result of her Becoming the Mask after the first movie. Even after the real story comes out and Gracie becomes the face of the FBI, the girly-girl persona sticks.
- Extremely Short Timespan: While not an Immediate Sequel per se, the movie still takes place during Cheryl's one year reign as Miss United States.
- Hostage Video: The one of Cheryl and Stan began the entire plot.
- Gender-Blender Name: Sam(antha) Fuller.
- Gender Scoff: Samantha subverts the usual "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em." phrase:Sam: Men! Can't live with them, can't—no, actually that's about it.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Inverted:Sam Fuller: You didn't just call me sister, because I don't recall seeing a skinny, white-ass girl growing up at the table.
Gracie Hart: Okay, first of all... thank you for calling me skinny.
- Out-of-Character Alert:Gracie Hart: Cheryl would never refer to her ass as her booty! Cheryl would never refer to her ass, period! She calls it her "popo"!
- Playing Gertrude: Eileen Brennan, who plays Stan Fields' mom, is actually a year younger than William Shatner.
- Power Walk: Gracie and Sam get one after reverting to their grey FBI suits.
- Recursive Crossdressing: Sam Fuller's head almost explodes at the prospect of going undercover as a Drag Queen:Sam Fuller: I am not going out there as a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be Tina Turner. I can't afford therapy on my salary.
- Recycled Soundtrack: During the scene where Sam and Gracie rescue Cheryl and Stan, you can hear "Building the Crate" and "The Chickens Are Revolting" from Chicken Run in the background.
- In fact, this movie is one of the all-time great cases of Recycled Soundtrack, as the film is packed with cues from other movies (including two other Sandra Bullock movies, Two Weeks Notice and the first Miss Congeniality). This does have some original music (by John Van Tongeren, Christophe Beck and Randy Edelman), but apparently not much...
- Ruined Forever: Gracie's undercover career after the epic fame she earned saving the Miss United States Pageant.
- Sassy Black Woman: Sam Fuller.
- Showgirl Skirt
- Twenty Minutes into the Past: As noted above, the movie is set during the year after the original movie — despite being made actually five years later.
- Viva Las Vegas