Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005)

Sandra Bullock is the nation?s most famous tomboy. She began in action flicks but soon settled under the familiar road traveled by so many winsome, likeable young actresses: romantic comedies. She even turned down the role in Million Dollar Baby that Hilary Swank would later ride to Oscar gold. Bullock has now publicly stated that she wants to step away from romantic comedies and challenge herself as an actress. She of course must have felt this way before agreeing to Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.

Just weeks after foiling a beauty pageant tragedy, Gracie Hart (Bullock) is returning back to the FBI undercover field. Her newfound celebrity makes her stick out in a crowd of autograph-seekers. She cannot work undercover anymore so the FBI, in a stroke of public relations, wants Gracie to be the new face of the bureau. She gets a makeover (again) and a hot-tempered bodyguard (Regina King) to shadow her on talk show circuits, book signings, and other public appearances. Just when things are looking rosy, the reigning Miss United States, Cheryl, and the pageant host (William Shatner, gleefully hammy) are kidnapped. The kidnappers want millions or else they?ll kill them both. Gracie regroups from her makeover madness and jumps on the case to save her friend.

Bullock is a very likeable actress but seems prone to more pratfalls than Buster Keaton combined with two of the Three Stooges. The physical comedy comes off being tired this go-round. Watching Bullock be clumsy can be funny, but the comedy of Miss Congeniality 2 is too forced to crack a smile. The friction between Gracie and her bodyguard is one conversation away from evaporating. The girls have to pose as Vegas entertainers to get backstage, when they just could have used their “oh I don’t know?” FBI status. When Gracie goes undercover Bullock becomes unhinged and flounders around in rubbery ethnic stereotypes. Miss Congeniality 2 isn’t funny because the film doesn’t know what to do.

The finer moments of Miss Congeniality involved the dry wit of Michael Caine, and he is sorely missed in this sequel. The strangely necessary role of gay makeover artist is passed to Deidrech Bader (The Drew Carey Show). He amps up the sass but can’t really replace Caine. King is a greatly underrated actress (Jerry Maguire should have made her a star), but she suffers from the constraints of a rough-around-the-edges loner character. She mainly scowls and grumbles.

What made Miss Congeniality appealing was the fish-out-of-water conceit of an ugly ducking in a world of swans. Even though I didn’t like the film, it could at least muster up broad humor from its comic premise. Miss Congeniality 2 is a lot like Austin Powers 2, in that the sequel puts the fish back into the water. As a result the film loses whatever comic firepower it might have had. Miss Congeniality 2 attempts to be a female-buddy-cop caper, but the butting heads rarely produce any comedy. This film didn’t make me laugh until after 20 minutes in, and the ratio of screen time to laughs didn’t improve much afterwards (and that includes jokes about bad breath and tampons!).

Miss Congeniality 2 has some of the dumbest police work ever. Characters go to extreme lengths for basic information, make wild assessments on little to go with, and key clues are tripped over with the subtlety of a jackhammer. The idiotic police work syncs up with the preposterous nature of the crooks? scheme. They are ex-employees of the Treasure Island casino, so to take revenge they?re going to trap their prey inside the pirate ship display, which is set to sink as part of the attraction’s script. Yes, death by casino attraction.

There are also some wildly brainless moments. Gracie is about to flee the sinking pirate ship, when her elaborate showgirl costume gets trapped under a heavy canon. Now, with time and air running out, any normal person would quickly strip out of the costume and swim away. Instead, Gracie tugs at her costume trying to yank it out, and she does this until she nearly drowns. I don’t care who you are, if you’re about to drown then modesty isn’t going to get in the way. Better to be alive and naked than dead and soggy. For that matter, when Gracie discovers that the pirate ship has her friends she runs to get inside. Wouldn’t it be infinitely easier to find someone at the casino that could stop the animatronic attraction? I’m sure something that organized doesn’t just run without safety controls.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is clumsy and riddled with contrivances and inanities. The jokes are forced and dead on arrival, and Bullock falls into what she does best, which is falling down. There is no reason for this film to exist other than that the original made money. Die-hard fans of Miss Congeniality may be the only ones to get some enjoyment out of this tepid sequel. Even casual fans of Bullock’s romantic comedies will likely be disappointed. You know you’re watching a tired comedy when they make Dolly Parton boob jokes in the year 2005. Miss Congeniality 2 is a film that doesn’t make the cut.

Nate’s Grade: C-

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About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at PictureShowPundits.com (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on March 26, 2005, in 2005 Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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