Grace Hart is a tough FBI officer who ironically lacks but one quality: Grace. One could go further and claim that she’s an affront to grace, well into the territory of inelegance. Fortunately for her job, this has zero consequences since these qualities are well suited for a workaholic detective.
Hart is also the only female officer in her contingent, which means that her fellow officers consider her to be “one of the boys”. She has a knack for defying most authority and is incredibly motivated to push in favor of her own rambunctious ideas. Her current center of attention is a terrorist responsible for a series of bombings across the country. The plot starts to set in when this terrorist indicates that his next target for the bombing is the “Miss America” contest. Officer Hart is “asked” to go undercover in the beauty pageant as a participant, as she is the only person in the force who can potentially look the part. After some initial resistance and mulling over the idea, she reluctantly agrees and the team travels to the venue in Texas. A celebrated pageant coach is also brought in, who has the challenging job of fixing Grace’s inelegance in a mere four days. Her presence seems to act like a wrench in the workings of the pageant. Every event has some or the other diversion in its original plan leading to hilarity. At one point, the entire affair is too much of a change for her and she decides to give up. After some deliberation, she is convinced by her colleague Matthews that she is the right person for the job. She goes back and they finally manage to track down the culprit. At the last minute, they prevent the bomb explosion from causing any damage and also arrest the culprit.
Most of the humour in the film arises because of Bullock’s clumsy but resourceful character juxtaposed against the elegant and demeanoured nature of the pageant. Caine’s plays the pageant coach Melling, who must deal with her minor revolts at every step of the makeover is the primary source of conflict. also has consistent complaints against her behaviour are also a source of conflict. Matthews is a ribald officer who slowly develops a thing for Grace, especially after her transformation which highlights her “good parts” with makeup and other paraphernalia.
One could say that the film is about how most people are not who they pretend to be and how they’re capable of change, for better or worse. This is visible in Hart’s transformation into a congenial and likeable person, the souring transformation of the pageant manager from a passionate leader to a deranged maniac, the evolution of her teenage son into a pervy, emotionally stunted adult. More specifically, one could also say that it is about people’s tendency to “bucket” others into groups and then expect only those things out of them. This is obvious in the case of Melling, Hart’s undercover ego Freebush and also the very ribald Matthews who eventually falls in love with her.
The film has other issues which are majorly unaddressed. This includes unapologetic sexual harassment by the Matthews character which goes completely unmentioned. I don’t have a problem with the film portraying him as sexually inappropriate, but the fact that Bullock’s character takes it in stride is problematic. There is the secondary issue of employee privacy, when we see the cops extract file photos of all employees in the department and proceed to undress some of them through digital image manipulation. This too goes completely unreported and unpunished. There’s also the pressure of the beauty contest on Hart, which makes her respond with cliched and rote answers in order to appease the judge’s expectations of her. Everyone forgets about this and the movie refuses to comment on it after the fact. I don’t expect the movie to make a serious monologue or commentary out of the above topics. Instead, I feel that there’s a whole lot of humour that can be extracted out of the sheer inappropriateness of the above situations. I guess, the existence of all the above inappropriateness is justified solely by year when the movie was released.
The plot has a few amusing surprises, especially when depicting Bullock’s presence of mind, when onstage. If you do watch this one, look out for those.