Armed and Fabulous
you demanded it? When FBI Agent Gracie Hart won Miss Congeniality
back in 2000, moviegoers felt warm and perhaps slightly
manipulated, but they still enjoyed the film of the same
name to the tune of over $300 million. Despite the fact,
then, that Gracie appeared to be living happily ever after
with a make-over and Benjamin Bratt, producer and star Sandra
Bullock became willing to visit the character again.
That willingness, thankfully, did not translate
into overeagerness. Thus five years passed while Bullock
tried to find the right way into a sequel that would not
just give us more of the same. She almost succeeded.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
begins only three weeks after the first film, with Gracie
finding herself too famous to be effective. In those three
weeks, things moved awfully quickly, including her relationship
with Bratt's fellow agent. Perhaps the actor wanted too much
money to appear in the sequel; his punishment is to remain
off-screen as the guy who broke Bullock's heart. Considering
her status as an American sweetheart, this is a fate worse
than a UPN sitcom.
Bullock is an actress that understands that a strong ensemble
makes a film work. By losing Bratt, she makes up for it
by giving a plum role to Regina King, and has no qualms
about shifting focus to that character. From time to time,
anyway; it's still Bullock's movie.
"the new face of the FBI" teams Gracie with King's Agent
Sam Fuller, a Chicago girl with anger management problems.
Gracie gets to be pretty; Sam gets to demonstrate self-defense
techniques. If you had not keyed into it by now, MC2
works as a reversal of the buddy cop movie. Though a hint
of romance smolders for ancillary characters, this time
around the message is to be true to yourself, and possibly
always keep a gay friend on hand for when you need to tart
an actual plot rolls into place, as Miss United States (Heather
Burns) and pageant host Stan Fields (a largely wasted William
Shatner) get kidnapped outside of Las Vegas. Because of Gracie's
connection to Miss U.S., she and Sam get dispatched to handle
press conferences, frustrating when, obviously, Gracie wants
to solve the crime. Tantalized by the prospect, her image
consultant Joel (Diedrich Bader) is only too willing to use
his make-up skills to help her go back undercover.
storyline plays out fairly predictably, but director John
Pasquin does help the script throw in some zingers. With
the loss of Bratt, Bullock's character has an underlying
sadness that gives some weight to her occasional zany antics.
Pasquin also makes the gender reversal of all the buddy
cop clichés play out without stretching the imagination,
right down to the inevitable fight between them.
the flaming Joel displays subtlety, though a lot of the
credit belongs to the underrated Bader. This guy consistently
makes the most of whatever role he has, and only rarely
chews scenery in doing it. He resists the temptation to
go over the top well past the point a lesser actor would
have given in; when put into a chorus girl outfit, though,
what else can you do?
almost every other actor is wasted. Treat Williams plays a
cardboard cut-out of the annoying new supervisor. Reprising
his role from the first film, Ernie Hudson has little to do
but offer exposition, though he tries to at least give it
humor. Perhaps a lot of stuff got cut out, because no other
explanation could cover why Elizabeth Rohm plays an agent
that appears almost as an afterthought.
saddest cameo of the year has to be former great tough broad
Eileen Brennan provides a crucial bit of information playing
William Shatner's mother. Actually, she's still a great
tough broad, but she's also seven years younger than Shatner.
No toupee or plug will make up for that.
sequels explore new territory, so Miss Congeniality 2
gets some points for trying not to just be a rehash. But
even as it entertains, it feels a bit unnecessary. At least
Gracie comes full circle, which should spare us a Miss
Congeniality 3 in 2010.