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Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

  Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
"You were good in 'Ray,' but let's not forget whose name is above the title, m'kay?"

© 2005, Warner Bros.
All Rights Reserved

After thwarting an assassination attempt at a beauty pageant, F.B.I. agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is having trouble keeping herself useful in undercover situations due to her newfound fame. Chosen to represent the F.B.I. on the publicity circuit, Gracie and her new butch partner, Sam (Regina King, setting her career back 10 years), fly to Las Vegas for an appearance. Once there, a kidnap plot involving a beauty queen (Heather Burns) and a television personality (William Shatner, trying hard) is revealed, forcing Gracie back into action when the local bureau (led by Treat Williams) can't seem to find any clues.

Sometimes, Sandra Bullock makes it really hard to enjoy her career. The original "Miss Congeniality" gave Bullock the kind of box office any actor would kill for, but it was a tremendously lazy film, propped up on lame jokes, shrill performances, and nauseatingly centered on Bullock trying to be funny. It should come as no surprise that "Miss Congeniality 2" (IMDb listing) is simply a larger helping of the same formula, yet this time the production knows it has gold in some audience member's eyes, so they layer the poison on thicker, and with less care. This sequel is dreadful in just about every way. Its main focus is to routinely prove a nagging, egotistical point: Sandra Bullock finds herself hilarious.

Who am I to argue with audience approval? Yet, to see Bullock go from fine comic/dramatic fare in "Hope Floats" and "Forces of Nature," to the crud of the two "Congeniality" films is demoralizing. Here, her idea of a joke is to either snort while laughing (a gag the film goes to five times for effect), act "ugly," or to excruciatingly improvise at the end of every single line. Bullock doesn't have the chops to be so bravely comedic, and her performance is like watching amateur hour at the local hotel's comedy rumpus room. "Congeniality 2" piles on the hurt with a sequence that finds Gracie dressed up in old-age make-up to investigate a retirement home. Her portrayal of a Jewish grandmother ("Praise Moses!" being her catchphrase) is up there with a mediocre high school talent show, albeit one armed with $80 million to propagate its brand of awfulness. Bullock isn't bringing anything innovative to the material for the sequel, so if you've seen the first "Congeniality," you've already seen the sequel, and potentially the third film too.

Bullock doesn't do herself any favors by bringing director John Pasquin into the fold. The former Tim Allen lackey ("Jungle 2 Jungle," "The Santa Clause," and the brutal "Joe Somebody") gives "Congeniality 2" a smooth sitcom sheen he's perfected over the years. His comic timing is deadly, and his acceptance of the malarkey that screenwriter Marc Lawrence (working on his fourth Bullock feature) is pimping here is astonishing. Eventually, the picture turns into a comic farce that has Gracie and Sam dressing up as drag queens, performing "Proud Mary" in a nightclub, and fighting the bad guys in the middle of a suspiciously security-free casino. If that wasn't enough, Pasquin and Lawrence have the nerve to try and put an artificial message of "just be yourself" in the middle of this nonsense, which ends up giving the film to an extended second ending that nobody asked for. "Miss Congeniality 2" is a sour, tedious, unfunny, 115-minute joke. It may be armed, but it most certainly isn't fabulous.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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