In 2000, Sandra Bullock tripped and snorted her way through a lightweight comedy called Miss Congeniality as a tough but not so feminine FBI agent undercover at a beauty pageant. Displaying all the depth of a Dixie cup, the flick's My Fair Lady Packing Heat premise scored a few laughs and was a modest hit. Hoping for a solid double, Bullock suits up again for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous. Unfortunately, she's swinging at bad pitches.
Sandy, my dear ... didn't you learn anything from Speed 2? As necessary sequels go, Miss Congeniality 2 isn't as odious as say The Whole Ten Yards or Legally Blonde 2, but it's still a sad attempt to squeeze a few bucks out of past success. Screenwriter Marc Lawrence (who also penned the first flick) reunites some of the original cast with a premise that at least makes sense. The beauty pageant winner from Miss Congeniality has been kidnapped and Bullock's Gracie Hart heads to Las Vegas to crack the case.
While the first flick wasn't an Oscar contender by any means, it at least had personality and some genuine laughs. The beauty-pageant scenes provided a colorful set-up for Bullock's antics. You can see the filmmakers tried to do the same thing using the Vegas background, but they make a limp attempt. Who knew you could make Sin City look so generic? This movie has no zip.
The filmmakers do get some props for not simply re-making the same movie. The "fish out of water" concept worked really well in Miss Congeniality, but I don't think audiences would have sat through another makeover montage. Instead, the sequel picks up soon after the events in the first flick. Gracie Hart has become so famous following her beauty pageant adventure that she can no longer do undercover work.
Since she's the only agent to ever get fan mail, the FBI brass tap Gracie to become the "new face of the FBI" for a positive publicity campaign. They hook her up with Joel the image consultant (Diedrich Bader from The Drew Carey Show), who polishes off Gracie's remaining rough edges. Bader is a game comic player who does his best with a tired bit a Queer Eye wannabe who's a weak copy of Michael Caine's pageant expert from the first flick.
While Gracie's doing public appearances and talk shows, two Vegas thugs nab her beauty pageant pals Cheryl and Stan (Heather Burns and William Shatner still having a blast burying the memory of Captain Kirk). Gracie soon heads to Las Vegas to be the spokesperson for the investigation, bringing along Joel and her bodyguard a hard-case agent named Sam Fuller (committed movie nuts can now snicker at this ode to a legendary director) played by the undervalued Regina King (from Ray).
Concerned about her friends, Gracie goes rogue to solve the case. She butts heads with the chief of the Vegas bureau (a slumming Treat Williams doesn't the WB pay enough, dude?), dresses up in old lady drag to look for clues and chases a famous suspect through the Venetian Hotel. Along the way, Gracie and Sam bicker and fight as part of that mismatched partner dance you've seen played out in so many better movies.
Bullock's likeability carries this flick as she did in Miss Congeniality. She dives into each stale scenario with a wink and a smile. The rest of the cast lacks the charisma to hold up their end. The first flick had Bullock ricocheting off Candice Bergen, Michael Caine and Benjamin Bratt. Bader makes an attempt, but only King truly rises to the challenge. Without her, Bullock would be lugging this jalopy all by herself.
Director John Pasquin (who cut his teeth on sitcoms before helming pap like The Santa Clause) does little to care for his cast. He's made a movie with all the pizzazz of a trip to your dentist. Where other directors would have made the Las Vegas atmosphere a key player in the film, Pasquin simply uses it as a place to set up his camera. Bullock's willingness to dive head first into this fluff is certainly worth a few baby laughs, but not enough for a full-price admission ticket.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun