Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and some sexual humor
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Enrique Murciano, Heather Burns, Diedrich Bader, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Abraham Benrubi, Nick Offerman, Treat Williams, Eileen Brennan, Regis Philbin, Stephen Tobolowski
Director: John Pasquin
Screenplay: Marc Lawrence
A major disappointment for Miss Congeniality fans, as this superfluous sequel completely ignores almost everything that made the first film succeed, and injects a whole lot of ineptitude in its place. The title is Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, which proves to be false advertising, as the only thing fabulous about it is that it does finally end at some point. Not even the charm of Sandra Bullock (Two Weeks Notice, 28 Days) can save this stinker, as the amount of muck that she must wade through to try to squeeze out every laugh proves too much to endure. This is one of those sequels so painful to withstand, you may find yourself not even watching the first one again for fear of reopening the wounds incurred after it has beaten you with a stupidity stick with no remorse or pity for two hours straight.
The first misstep occurs when you realize that Gracie is being dumped by her colleague and lover, Eric. Benjamin Bratt does not make an appearance (quite wisely, if that was his choice), although you do see the anguish in Gracie's face as she is coldly jilted over the telephone. The first film never had a moment where it took its characters all that seriously, quite smartly keeping everything on the light and fluffy path for people who were in the mood. With this one tearful early scene, Miss Congeniality 2 already commits a flagrant foul, automatically disqualifying it from being anywhere near as good as its predecessor.
It is also the first of many instances where the character of Gracie does something un-Gracie-like. In the first film, Gracie was a bit of a tomboy, not really knowing or caring about being feminine, and never really getting too caught up in having a meaningful, lasting relationship. She also was a tough gal, willing to go toe-to-toe with any man, within reason. The Gracie of this sequel is very prone to cry or primp herself at most opportunities, and in bi-polar fashion, she is also a tempestuous hothead who dishes out severe physical abuse whenever her temper flares. By constantly shifting from extreme to extreme, Bullock plays Gracie as a caricature, and not the rounded character she had been before. She is thoroughly unlikable and far from sympathetic.
The first film successfully avoided the lackluster plot elements whenever possible, so that we might have fun with the characters. Miss Congeniality 2 churns out a barrage of plot developments, one after the other, never really letting us enjoy a funny moment for what it is. The worst part comes from the main plot itself, with Miss United States and the emcee of the pageant (Heather Burns and William Shatner, reprising their roles) both kidnapped and videotaped by their husky captors who have threatened their lives. Apparently, no one writing this script has been paying attention to the news, as the similarity between the kidnapping shown in this movie and the al-Qaeda beheadings, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are uncomfortably similar, completely diffusing the comedic aspect of it by the comparison.
In order to try to score some laughs, every dog-tired device is thrown at the screen, including an extended sequence where Bullock and co-star Regina King (Ray, Legally Blonde 2) end up playing men in drag at a club for female impersonators. This might be the nadir of the movie, and perhaps of cinema as a whole, as "men dressed as women" has been strip-mined by comedies to the point where it is laboriously trite and exceedingly unfunny.
Miss Congeniality 2 is the epitome of a bad sequel, where no one in the production understands what made the first film a hit. It's so hard to imagine, since the obviousness of it is so easy. We liked Miss Congeniality because we like Sandra Bullock, and in making her so egotistical and outrageous in this film, we don't even have the one thing the franchise has going for it anymore. Without a single character to like, without a funny moment to laugh at, and without a decent plot to bother trying to follow, Miss Congeniality 2 is nothing but flashing images moving around on a giant screen, offering nothing compelling or interesting to grab your attention for its overlong duration.
Congeniality is a quality associated with being pleasant and friendly, and after being kicked in the head so often by this incessantly sadistic sequel, I think all claim to the conciliatory prize should be forfeited. Forget "Proud Mary", the Tina Turner number at the drag queen club should have been sung to the tune of the song she did for Mad Max 3: and titled," We Don't Need Another Sequel".
©2005 Vince Leo