A film review by Craig J. Koban



2005, PG-13, 115 mins.

Gracie Hart: Sandra Bullock / Sam Fuller: Regina King / Jeff Foreman: Enrique Murciano / Stan Fields: William Shatner / McDonald: Ernie Hudson / Cheryl Frasier: Heather Burns / Collins: Treat Williams

Directed by John Pasquin / Written by Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas

I am going to be enormously fair at the beginning of this review by defending Sandra Bullock in this manner:

I have always liked her. 

She has a sort of cute and adorable exuberance, sexiness, and charm that have, more or less, made her an actress that has been engaging throughout her career.  Her resume of films has largely been a mixed bag.  She was an effective and bubbly foil to Keanu Reeves' monosyllabic performance in SPEED, was beyond affable in the lightweight and entertaining WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, and was engaging as a computer hacker in THE NET.  Hell, even in her other lackluster films, like TWO WEEKS NOTICE, FORCES OF NATURE, and…yes…MISS CONGENIALITY, Bullock still remained amiably and undeniably agreeable and quirky.  Not only that, but she’s always been likeable in her films.   

Unfortunately, none of her tremendously affable and jovial qualities could save her newest comedy, the sequel to her surprise 2000 hit comedy MISS CONGENIALITY.  That first film, if you recall, showcased Bullock as an FBI agent tomboy who must infiltrate a beauty pageant in order to…well…stop some bad guys, as memory serves me.  My vague recollections of that film were that it was somewhat of a one-note farce that was watchable because of Bullock’s presence, which demonstrated a nice happy medium between broad physical comedy and lightweight cheerfulness.  She was undeniably cute in the film, but she nevertheless played such a hapless ditz that I found it increasingly dubious that she would have ever managed to make it into the FBI.  Oh, and not only that, but the film revealed that behind her rather mannish appearance lurked a hot bombshell…what are the odds? 

MISS CONGENIALITY was an acceptable, if not completely disposable, comedy.  I find it even more inconceivable that Bullock would even consider revisiting this role in a sequel – the annoyingly and idiotically titled MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS.  This film is not bad because it is shameful and offensive; it is wretched because of its redundancy and uselessness.  After watching the first film preclusions of a sequel never, ever occurred to me.  Honestly, just how much more did they have to say with a possible sequel?  MISS CONGENIALITY 2 seemingly falls off the mundane and unnecessary tree and hits every proverbial branch on the way down.  

Everything about this film reeks of desperation.  Not only does it appear to be an act of absolute desperation on Bullock’s part to revive a once thriving career (I guess, in this industry, one way to try to rekindle your own celebrity fire is by blatantly revisiting your own past cinematic well).  In another more enveloping manner,  MISS CONGENIALITY represents desperation for laughs of any kind.  The movie makes the one cardinal blunder that all film comedies should never make – it is simply not funny. 

The film does not have one genuine or heartfelt laugh, and the writing and performances seem to set up the laughs in such a painfully routine and predictable manner that they are completely telegraphed.  All this film needed was a laugh track, maybe to remind or tell the audience when we are supposed to giggle.  Not only that, but the film’s other detriment is just how boring it is.  At nearly 2 hours, the film is twenty minutes too long for its own health and well-being, and by the end, I literally felt like it sucked all of the life right out of me.  Good comedies should inspire and uplift my mood, but this one left me completely bereaved of amusement.  It’s a total comic dead zone. 

Bullock once again reprises her role as Gracie Hart, a plucky, intrepid, hard-hitting, yet incredibly clumsy FBI agent.  It seems that the publicity she gained from the last film with her undercover work has made her tremendously famous with most women across the country.  I guess conventional wisdom would dictate that, being that she is now as famous as her celebrity alter ego, that maybe she would not be an ideal candidate for undercover work for the bureau anymore.  Nevertheless, the film opens with a botched sting operation at a local bank because the FBI is too moronic to realize that Hart would be easily identified unless in heavy disguise.  Inevitably, a fan recognizes her and the sting nearly ends up costing lives.   

Hart is clearly not cut out anymore for fieldwork.  She is just too wildly famous.  Nonetheless, the FBI director (again played by Ernie Hudson, never looking more stiff and bored) is gearing her up for another assignment altogether.  Since he feels that the agency needs some serious PR assistance, he decides to make Hart their new public relations patsy and spokesperson - “the new face of the bureau.”   Funny, but instead of really utilizing Hart as a strong spokesperson for all other strong-willed and sturdy women out there that want to pick themselves up and be somebody, she instead glosses herself up, signs lots of books, smiles constantly, and gives out tips on beauty care.  And this helps the FBI’s image…how?  She even manages to make appearances on the talk show circuit, and especially on one famous one that never manages to grasp at the comic possibilities. 

We also learn, rather quickly, that the characters played by Michael Caine (her groomer from the first film) and Benjamin Bratt (her love interest also from the first film) do not return, maybe positively showing their careful misgivings about going down on a sinking ship.  Bratt’s character is very conveniently written off, and Caine’s is never mentioned.  It’s ironic because after all of Caine’s primping and grooming of Hart in the first film, she still struggles to “look good”.  Well, the FBI does spend some hard earned tax dollars and hires Joel (the usually hilarious Diedrich Bader), a homosexual makeover artist that, for reasons that befuddle me, gives her all of the aesthetic tips that Hart obviously learned from the first film!  You’d think that Hart, who turned out to be quite the babe at the end of the first film, would have recalled a few of Caine’s tips, but this film feels the need to forget this to serve up a another grossly exaggerated, gay stereotyped character to win over some laughs.  Sorry, but I’m not that easy. 

Gracie also gets a new bodyguard for all of her touring, which again seems like another inept move on the film’s part, seeing as Hart has demonstrated that she can handle herself.  Sam Fuller (played in a one note performance by Regina King) is assigned, whose own obvious anger management issues are never considered when assigning her.  Eventually, Gracie is rolled out under Sam’s watchful and vigilant eye and becomes quite the success, but their tour is impeded by the kidnapping of Gracie’s old friend from the last film – Miss America herself – (Heather Burns).  Not only that, but the criminals also kidnapped the pageant host, played again by William Shatner.  Shatner has emerged in recent years as an extraordinarily funny man in lighter roles, especially in BOSTON LEGAL and in those insidiously hilarious PRICELINE commercials.  Here, he’s completely wasted and is given nothing better to do than look mystified and confused. 

As the plot spirals down from one outlandish moment to the next, Gracie and Sam fly to Las Vegas in search of the kidnappers.  Unfortunately, after Gracie tackles the real Dolly Parton (who she thought was an impostor), she has embarrassed the FBI so much that the local bureau honcho, Collins (Treat Williams, playing his role strictly by the numbers of its formula), tries to stop Hart from any further investigation of the kidnapping.  That does not stop our gutsy hero, as she and Sam manage to even dress up like female impersonators in a Vegas drag club, in a scene that is hopelessly inert and recklessly dumb to its core. 

If this film’s idea of laughs is this moment, combined with would-be-uproariously funny scenes of Regis Philban getting elbowed in the groin on TV, then MISS CONGENIALITY 2 is in need of serious comedic upgrades.  Not only is the comedy forced and routine, but also the relationship between Hart and Fuller is the usual grab bag of buddy movie clichés that have been done better in so many other films.  They meet, hate each other from the start, grow to respect one another, and then fight alongside one another. Yawn. 

MISS CONGENIALITY 2 is a masterpiece of tediousness and inspiring boredom in its audience members.  The film is too long to sustain its silly and sparse premise, offers up some mournfully bad performances, and tries to deliver laughs that are not only hard to find, but are completely missing in action, never to be located.  If the film’s monotonous and recycled tone feels unabashedly awful, then the final three minutes of it take the cake.  Not only are we forced to sit though a long ordeal of uninspired and flaccid comic situations, but we must survive an epilogue that ties in to a small moment earlier in the film that most audience members will have forgotten because they slept through the film since that point.  Not only is this film paper thin on plot and laughs, but it's also agonizing in how it does not know when to stop. 

MISS CONGENIALITY 2 will most likely proudly occupy a deserving spot on my WORST FILMS list at the conclusion of this year.  The film fails as a comedy (it’s not funny), fails at providing an interesting story (it’s plodding and dull), and it fails as a sequel (it does nothing to add to the original and instead regurgitates its formula and tries to shamefully pass it off as something new and fresh).  The movie felt kind of like week-old leftovers that were forgotten about in the fridge, then finally taken, after which they inspire our displeasure with how useless and unsavory they now have become.  This comedy sequel is completely dead in the water, a film that wastes Sandra Bullock’s overt sweetness and lovability, not to mention my precious time. 

This film is not armed and fabulous;  it’s wearisome and abysmal.

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