MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS
***1/2 (out of 5)
March 25, 2005
Sandra Bullock as GRACIE HART
Regina King as SAM FULLER
Enrique Murciano as JEFF FOREMAN
William Shatner as STAN FIELDS
Ernie Hudson as AGENT MCDONALD
Heather Burns as CHERYL FRAZIER
Diedrich Bader as JOEL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: John Pasquin
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I have to admit that when I first heard they were making a sequel to “Miss Congeniality,” I was prepped for a real stinker. After all, it’s been five years since the original, and half the cast (including Michael Caine and Benjamin Bratt) didn’t return.
But after a string of lackluster “serious” films like the ultra chick flick “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and the murky “Murder By Numbers,” it seems that Sandra Bullock decided to come back to her roots and do what she does best – the light comedy. Like Julia Roberts, whenever Bullock strayed from her core talent, she started to fade. (After all, who really went out to see “In Love and War”?)
Still, in the wake of the dreadful sequel “The Ring 2,” things were lining up for “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” to just reek.
But you know what? I actually liked it. Of course, I’m in the minority on this opinion in the critics circles. Already, they’re blasting this movie. It’s eliciting as much emotion from the press as the Terri Shiavo case. I even saw a local film critic walk out of the screening I attended.
But I say poo-poo to them. This movie made me laugh.
This new installment picks up only a short time after Gracie Hart busted up an assassination plot at the Miss United States pageant. Hart, who became a national star after the pageant, is now a burden in field work because too many people recognize her. She’s taken off of her normal assignments and is left doing the only job she can – a P.R. position as the new face of the FBI.
Over the course of a year, she changes her image back to a glamorous spokesperson to help improve the image of the FBI. However, while she’s in Vegas to make an appearance, she learns that her friends Miss United States Cheryl Frazier (Heather Burns) and emcee Stan Fields (William Shatner) have been kidnapped. Using the help of her hotheaded bodyguard Sam Fuller (Regina King) and flamboyant stylist (Diedrich Bader), she goes behind the FBI’s back to solve the mystery.
While there’s no Michael Caine in this film, the supporting cast holds its own and complements Bullock well. I’m normally not a fan of Regina King, but she does a solid job playing against her own type as the and FBI agent with a serious anger management problem. Of course, Diedrich Bader, whom most will remember as Oswald from “The Drew Carey Show” manages to steal almost every scene he’s in. After all, he’s in an elite group of male actors that have had breasts both on television and in the movies.
And the only reason William Shatner doesn’t steal the show like he did in the first film is he just doesn’t get enough screen time.
What made “Miss Congeniality 2” work is that the filmmakers didn’t just re-do the story from the first one. Oh sure, it was still formulaic, but they went for something different while staying true to the original characters. Too often, I’ve seen sequels in which the filmmakers want to do something so different that they change the characters to something that they’re not.
The plot is pretty predictable, and there’s no great surprises. But the filmmakers capitalize on this by presenting the comedy in the right way. Some comedy only works if it’s a surprise. Some only works if it’s plain slapstick. And other comedy, like that of the “Austin Powers” films, works because it’s just fun to watch what you know will happen.
So, most critics in this case should just chill out and stop being so bitter about popular actresses who aren’t trying to find themselves. I actually heard one critic say to another that Sandra Bullock is going to have to find more meaningful roles since she’s getting too old. Come on! She may be over 40, but I’d still join her for a roll in the hay. (Now if I can only get my wife to agree to something like that!)