Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir John Pasquin
scr Marc Lawrence
with Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Treat Williams, William Shatner, Diedrich Bader, Enrique Murciano, Heather Burns, Ernie Hudson, Abraham Benrubi, Nick Offerman, Eileen Brennan, Stephen Tobolowsky
release US/UK 25.Mar.05
05/US Warners 1h55

I'm not wearing that: King and Bullock

bullock king shatner

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Miss Congeniality 2 Like the Bridget Jones sequel, this follow-up labours to recapture the magic and ends up both getting the tone wrong and making its central character rather unlikeable. Although at least this one's enjoyably amusing.

After solving the Miss United States case, FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) is too recognisable to work undercover. So she takes a job as the face of the bureau and becomes a minor celebrity. Then Miss United States (Burns) and the pageant host (Shatner) are kidnapped in Vegas, and doing PR isn't enough. Gracie tackles the case itself--against the will of the local bureau chief (Williams), but with the help of her feisty bodyguard (King), queer-eyed stylist (Bader) and a hapless local agent (Murciano).

There's enough rambunctious energy to keep us engaged, and Bullock is watchable as ever. But the filmmakers make the tactical error of focussing on Gracie's clumsy toughness rather than the fast-thinking charm that made the first film so much fun. The result is a significantly different character; this Gracie is still inventive and funny, but she's also pathetic, whiny and cruel. In this kind of role, Bullock feels both lacklustre and forced, although her engaging spirit re-ignites in the film's manic finale. Meanwhile, King is hilariously grumpy and tough as the sidekick with a massive chip on her shoulder. Both Bader and Murciano camp it up shamelessly, with sometimes hilarious results. And Shatner and Williams get the film's most thankless roles, while a few starry cameos don't help as much as they should.

There are sparks of strong wit in the script, but it feels watered down by bad rewrites and anonymous direction. You can just feel it straining desperately to be hilarious, going over-the-top in several ways (would an FBI PR budget really extend to limos and Vuiton/Chanel handbags?) and reaching out in desperation for the silly disguise scene, flamboyant drag queen sequence and of course the touching moment when the bickering agents finally bond. So the fact that Bullock and King actually make it entertaining is something remarkable, really.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, violence 22.Mar.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall