Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
Directed by John Pasquin. Starring Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Enrique Murciano, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Heather Burns, Diedrich Bader, Treat Williams. (2005, PG-13, 115 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 25, 2005
Sandra Bullock is back as Gracie Hart, the slovenly FBI agent who in the last film went undercover as a beauty-pageant contestant in order to get her man. As this sequel picks up, Gracie is still working in the field but learns during the film’s opening sting operation that her fame (she is now a bestselling author of a book on her experiences) impedes her undercover work. (That we are to believe the FBI still has Hart working in the field despite her face beaming from billboards everywhere flacking her book is just the first example of the film’s carefree attitude toward FBI work.) Shifting to a new work detail, Hart officially becomes the "new face of the FBI," a convenient device to get her out of her tomboy street clothes and into fashionable togs and make-up for the remainder of the movie. She makes public appearances on behalf of the FBI and has a personal stylist (Bader) who travels with her. But when Miss United States and her chaperone (the returning Burns and Shatner) are kidnapped for ransom, Hart insists on going to the scene of the crime, Las Vegas, and participating in the investigation. There she tangles with the Vegas bureau chief (Williams in a thankless role) and her assigned partner, Sam Fuller (King), a tough and humorless agent with a chip on her shoulder and an honorary name some insiders are chuckling over. King eventually gets to display her comedic chops, while Burns and Shatner are shunted to the comedic sidelines. However, the movie’s comic soul belongs to Bullock, who seems perfectly game for anything but is hampered by a weak script. This time out, the story’s pageant gimmick seems a retread. In fact, the movie’s purpose almost seems to be more of a conveyance for a music CD release, as every scene change is driven by a few bars of different contemporary tracks. Bullock is one of Hollywood’s most talented physical and verbal comedians, yet she has yet to find a script that fully exploits these skills. We see smatterings in almost every role she’s ever played, yet it would be great to see her matched with material and a director who could really make the most of her skills. As is, her buoyancy manages to come through, no matter the movie. But it hardly matters if that movie is Miss Congeniality 2 Speed to the Max, or anything else she’s ever done. Without better material, Bullock’s talents will remain undercover.