American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Something about Sandra Bullock strikes me the right way. She has a warmth that gets you smiling even when the material is weak--as it sometimes is, since she has uncertain luck in choosing projects. In "Miss Congeniality," she makes her way through a screenplay that in other hands would have been a dreary sitcom mishmash, and her presence transforms it into a less dreary sitcom mishmash.
She has the producer's credit on the movie. That means she thought this project was a good fit. Since the material is tired and routine, what was she thinking of? Maybe she's not ambitious enough. Comedies will find her; she doesn't need to go looking for them. Stars with clout usually take on personal projects to break out of their typecasting, not to reinforce it.
In "Miss Congeniality," Bullock plays another version of a familiar role for her, in which she begins the film looking unglamorous and then undergoes a transformation. Sometimes that happens in the eye of the beholder, as it did in "While You Were Sleeping." This time, it happens because of a big-time beauty makeover. She starts as an FBI agent and ends up as a beauty contest finalist, and although churls may argue she's not convincing as a beauty queen, they are not of this earth.
Before she grows up to become an FBI agent, she's a tomboy who can beat up the other kids at school. As an agent, she clomps around looking hearty and graceless, pounding on punching bags and running red lights on her way to Starbucks, until she's assigned to impersonate a beauty pageant contestant. As an undercover agent, she can help head off a rumored terrorist threat to the event.