Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 16, 2005)
Some sequels are so bad they make you hate yourself for enjoying their predecessors. Into that category we must lump 2005’s abysmal Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, a piece of cinematic atrocity that damned near erases any memories of the original flick’s charms.
Sandra Bullock again plays FBI agent Gracie Hart. Set a few weeks after the events in the prior movie, Gracie discovers that she can no longer go out on undercover missions because her exposure as a beauty contestant made her too recognizable.
To make lemonade from lemons, her bosses decide to use Gracie as the public face of the agency. They send her out on public speaking engagements and she also promotes a book about her experiences. Along the way, she loses track of her old gritty personality and becomes a moderately insufferable priss and a self-centered diva.
Matters complicate when someone kidnaps a couple of Gracie’s old beauty pageant friends: Miss United States winner Cheryl Frazier (Heather Burns) and host Stan Fields (William Shatner). Gracie’s boss McDonald (Ernie Hudson) sends her to Las Vegas to handle PR with the other feds handle the kidnapping, but Gracie decides to take matters into her own hands to prove she’s more than just a pretty face.
This becomes more difficult due to the presence of angry agent Sam Fuller (Regina King). The feds pair Gracie with Sam because.. .. well, I’m not sure why, but she first works as Hart’s TV appearance assistant and then gets the job as Gracie’s bodyguard. The women hate each other. However, as Las Vegas bureau chief Walter Collins (Treat Williams) ignores all of Gracie’s discoveries, the pair slowly bond and work toward the same goal. Along with agent Jeff Foreman (Enrique Murciano) and Hart’s stylist Joel (Diedrich Bader), the movie follows the investigation.
No one thought of Miss Congeniality as a classic, but it delivered what it promised. Sparked by a light and charming performance from Bullock, it offered a cute and amusing little piece of high concept.
The sequel lacks the original’s clarity of theme and story. Instead, it uses a vague conceit - the kidnapping - and ties matters together with a slew of comedic set pieces. Or attempts at comedic set pieces, I should say, since nary a laugh emerges from this stale stinker.
The movie’s many cheesy plot conveniences/contrivances start early when the flick quickly dispenses with Gracie’s boyfriend from the first flick. Clearly this exists because they don’t want to pay for Benjamin Bratt to reprise his role. The way he dumps Gracie makes little sense, especially given the character’s personality from the first movie. Fabulous makes him a jerk to serve its own ends.
Maybe I could forgive such transgressions if the end result wasn’t so stiff and leaden. Fabulous plods from one boring situation to another and from one limp one-liner to another. Clichés abound as we meet the prissy gay image consultant, the angry black woman, and the frilly beauty queen.
The new characters lack impact and don’t even remotely resemble interesting, amusing personalities. In fact, they often make little sense in the context of the film. Does anyone believe that a barracuda like Janet would date a wuss like Jeff? I don’t, and that incoherence infects the jumbled Fabulous. Why do Fuller and Hart hate each other immediately? Because it’s funny!
Or maybe not. The same goes for Bader’s atrocious performance as Joel. It’s not just the fact the character’s such a tired cliché - it’s the tired and cliché way that Bader plays Joel that mires the movie in the muck. He always seems vaguely irritated and disinterested, like he can’t quite believe he has to say the lines in front of him.
But who can blame him? Though many of the lines seem like they should be amusing, virtually none of them are. Did someone actually write this dialogue or did the Scriptomatic 3000 do it?
I’m leaning toward the Scriptomatic if just because the story makes so little sense. For one, the tale takes forever to go anywhere; should it really take 20 minutes to get through the minor plot points at the start? When the story finally arrives, it’s most definitely not worth the wait, and the conglomeration of comedic set pieces doesn’t offer any amusement. The cart drives the horse with a story that leads toward gags rather than the other way around, and this comes with atrocious pacing that makes the movie drag horribly.
Inside a movie packed with bad decisions, none seem so misguided as the shift in Hart’s personality. The decision to make her self-centered backfires. Bullock’s natural charm evaporates as just becomes annoying and unlikable. It’s difficult to accept such a radical change of character and it harms the movie.
This doesn’t mean I think Fabulous would have been good with a more enchanting turn from Bullock. Unfortunately, nothing could redeem this sloppy, incoherent and thoroughly unfunny sequel. It generates no humor and simply leaves us angry that we ever liked anything or anyone associated with it.