Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 14, 2005 Released by: Warner Brothers
In Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock’s character, Gracie Hart, had a “temporary make over.” The wispy plot was covered over by her fans for the ability of Bullock as a special FBI agent, to use her physical comedy to her advantage, “without a detectable hint of estrogen.”
Now, in the sequel directed by John Pasquin (Joe Somebody), subtitled “Armed & Fabulous", Gracie’s living with the fame of what she did to protect the image of the Miss United States Pageant.
She is unable to work undercover, becoming “the face of the FBI,” and will have to flash her gun again. Unfortunately, this glossy make-over lacks any freshness that mirrors Bullock’s fading star power, as she is turning more to producing, doing voice work in animation and independent film roles.
Gracie’s innocent friend and beauty queen winner Cheryl, a sometimes wry Heather Burns and pageant boss/emcee Stan (William Shatner) are kidnaped and Gracie does press clandestinely handling the case in Las Vegas. The movie tries to amuse as a female buddy comedy with a pit-bull of a bodyguard for Gracie, Sam Fuller, played by Regina King, who offered strong support as a backup singer in Ray, opposite Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx.
A friendship between Gracie and Sam will slowly and predictably develop out of antagonism, as Gracie has been dumped (over the phone) by Benjamin Bratt’s Eric Matthews. There’s no engaging chemistry equaling what Bullock had with Bratt or Michael Caine’s gay beauty contest consultant in Miss Congeniality. A personal stylist (Diedrich Bader - heard in Ice Age), as Joel, doesn’t really help that much in smoothing out the rougher edges of the comedy in his broad, if sympathetic performance.
In the original, many chuckles came from a few impromptu beauty secrets involving hair spray, Preparation H, and bust padding. This time, what Gracie does to her waist, elicits the most laughter, as well as a cameo from Dolly Parton.
King’s Sam may have fit in better with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson with her “anger management” issues. When Gracie and Sam reflect on their joyless youth it seems that Bullock might be trying to get some more mileage out of Devine Secrets of Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
If the bond between Gracie and Sam rarely works, it’s transplanted by “dressing Gracie to the nines.” Trendy costume designer Deena Appel has fun outfitting Gracie in ways that make her sparkle and shine as evidenced by the film’s poster. In locating a witness in the drag club scene, Gracie is a fully plumped Vegas showgirl in coral, pink, and yellow a veritable Big Bird, opposite Sam’s Tina Turner lookalike. Pasquin highlights the music, lights, and energy of the Vegas strip, shooting at and around premiere hotels like Treasure Island, The Four Queens, and The Golden Nugget.
Still, while Miss Congeniality 2 is armed in opulent production designs, costumes, and sets, it’s far from fabulous as it is synonymous with a centerpiece stunt outside the Venetian Hotel where a defeated ship battling buccaneers submerges into the lagoon. Bullock wants to show how feistiness can become female empowerment in an out of the workplace, but her kooky FBI Barbie show turns what could have been a glitzy romp into a sagging boob job.
|Miss Congeniality 2 - Armed & Fabulous||D+||C||B+||B-||C|