Miss Congeniality 2 : Armed And Fabulous
Miss Congeniality was a surprisingly delightful little fish-out-of-water comedy about a rough-and-tumble FBI agent who gets a makeover. But that was about it. Now they apparently think we want more Gracie Hart shenanigans in Miss Congeniality 2, and we're not entirely sure why.
You must be dying to know what happened to FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) after she successfully squashed an attempt to blow up the Miss United States Pageant. I know I was. She's become an overnight media sensation--and is none too happy about it. She's frustrated that her newfound fame is jeopardizing the undercover work that she loves, and that she's been rejected by her boyfriend, which quickly explains away Benjamin Bratt's character from the original. So Gracie goes right back into the frying pan when she reluctantly lets her boss (Ernie Hudson) talk her into being the new ''face of the FBI.'' This time, however, Gracie takes the task of coifed spokeswoman a little too zealously, turning into a Gucci-carrying, Prada-wearing prima donna. But when Gracie's friend Cheryl (Heather Burns), the crowned Miss United States, and pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped, it forces Gracie to take action and finally realize who she really is: a snorting, hard-ass FBI agent who just wants to hit someone. Welcome back, Gracie!
Sandra Bullock is just too darn cute, regardless of the highly contrived messes she finds herself in. Remember Two If By Sea and Forces of Nature? Yeah, we try to forget them too, but not because Sandy is in them. At least she tries to make the stinkers more palatable. And while Miss Congeniality 2 seems to be another oops!, Bullock is perfect as Gracie Hart. Either klutzy and uncouth or perfectly manicured, the actress shows off an uncanny knack for physical comedy and moments of poignancy. This time around, Bullock also gets a sparring partner in the form of an even harder-ass FBI agent named Sam Fuller, played by the always-good Regina King. The two actresses have a nice female buddy-movie rapport, whether Sam is ''reminding'' Gracie as to why she became an FBI agent while the two lock each other in choke holds, or watching them on stage at a drag club, performing Tina Turner's ''Proud Mary.'' Still, after her tour-de-force performance as Ray Charles' tortured mistress in Ray, King has proven she is good enough to move beyond the throwaway supporting parts. Other than these two, however, the rest of the cast falls flat. Miss Congeniality's Michael Caine and Candice Bergen are sorely missed.
There really is no need for a second Miss Congeniality. The first one was enough. Sweet and unexpectedly engaging, it followed a tried-and-true fish-out-of-water formula, sold by Sandra Bullock's hilarious performance. It also wrapped up neatly and concisely. But when the film grossed $106 million, the greedy studio execs figured they just had to do a sequel because that's what they do. They probably lured producer-star Bullock and her longtime producing collaborator Marc Lawrence in, telling then how tremendous they are and how they are going to make even MORE money the second time around. ''Don't worry that people aren't clamoring for more Gracie Hart,'' they might have said. ''Let's just make a sequel!'' Well, guess what? They were wrong. Again. Helmed by comedic director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause), Miss Congeniality 2 simply beats the original's charm, humor and originality to death while straining to find a worthwhile plot--and audiences are going to know that. It feels slapped together, a contrivance to let Bullock shine again. She does what she can, but unfortunately, she can't carry the film past its banality. You'd think these people would learn.
Although Sandra Bullock is entirely watchable, Miss Congeniality 2 fails to win the title the second time around. Say goodnight, Gracie.