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Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

For some movies, a sequel makes sense. Sequels to smash hits like Spider-Man and The Matrix are inevitable, and in the case of The Godfather or Star Wars, they are completely appropriate. Even The Ring 2, in all of its bilious redundancy, was a logical sequel—the movie was bad, but the idea of making it wasn't. But with Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, we have a movie that should never have been made, a sequel that no one wanted. The concept behind the first Miss Congeniality wasn't inventive or funny enough to work as one movie—now we have two? What do you do with garbage like this? Conceivably, you could do all sorts of nasty things to this movie if properly motivated, but one thing's for sure—watching it is not an option.

Far too many of us remember Miss Congeniality, the pseudo-humorous story of Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), a dorky, awkward, tom-boyish FBI agent who was assigned to thwart a terrorist attack on the Miss America Pageant, and ended up going undercover as one of the models. There was an occasional laugh as Gracie went from klutzy fed to beauty queen, but only because Sandra Bullock was so charming and sweet. After a while, the movie wore thin, but at least the star was likable, and at least it began with some steam. Miss Congeniality 2 begins with nothing—not one joke that isn't flat or forced, not one new idea to bring to the table. Armed and Fabulous is a lazy retread of the first film, and a a bad one at that. This movie is as fake and processed as Gracie's retouched Barbie doll make-over.

After the events of the pageant, Gracie has returned to regular duty at the FBI. Even after all those lessons in primping and looking fabulous, Gracie's hair is still frazzled, her wardrobe is still bland, and she still does that snort thing when she laughs. It's as if she forgot the first movie ever happened (if only we could all be so lucky). However, adoring fans of the pageant haven't forgotten Gracie, and with her newfound fame, she can kiss covert undercover work goodbye. Gracie can't work in the field without being recognized, so the FBI makes her a PR tool, the new, very congenial face of the bureau.

When Miss America, Gracie's dear friend, is kidnapped, the FBI sends Gracie to Las Vegas to tend to the reporters. Of course, she can't stay idle while her friend is in trouble, so Gracie and her sassy, violent bodyguard, Sam Fuller (Regina King), ditch their PR duties and try to solve the case themselves.

The only funny thing in Miss Congeniality 2 is the kidnappers' ransom plan, although it isn't supposed to be a joke. First of all, what goons would have the bright idea to kidnap Miss America? No one has watched that pageant for years—do they think anyone, let alone the FBI, would really care if some pearly-smiled blonde woman with a sash and a crown went missing? And secondly, if you're being chased by the FBI, why set up your secret hideout in a Las Vegas hotel, of all places? What, the rundown shack the kidnappers used in the beginning of the movie was too conspicuous? Criminals this dumb and impractical remind us why movies like Miss Congeniality 2 are so aggravating—we wind up paying money to have our intelligence insulted.

Then again, intelligent people would avoid a stinker like Miss Congeniality as soon as they saw the trailer. Even the title is a dead givaway of the film's quality. Armed and Fabulous? I guess "Unnecessary Waste of Celluloid" would've been too long for the marquee anyway.

I didn't laugh once in Miss Congeniality 2, but I will say this: I like Sandra Bullock and I love Regina King. Bullock gave the first Miss Congeniality a pulse, and she is equally amiable and fun to watch in the sequel. Bullock's material isn't great (at one point, she slide tackles Dolly Parton), but none of it is her fault. Regina King, last seen in a performance of unsung magnificence in Ray, is underused and abused in this film, but her chemistry with Bullock is winning, and we can only look upon her with smiles. King is always focused and energetic in every role she takes on, and even after an embarrassing project like this, she remains a professional. I probably would've left Armed and Fabulous early, if not for King and Bullock.

Despite their best efforts, however, our two determined female stars can't stir the pot—Miss Congeniality 2, in the end, still sucks. During one particularly agonizing scene, where melodrama runs high and the sap seeps from the screen, one character describes herself as "worthless and not worth caring about." She shouldn't be so hard on herself—she should instead use those same words to describe Miss Congeniality 2, for I can find no better phrase to aptly contain this horrible sequel. It's not as bad as The Ring 2 (not many films are), but it's down there, and it will probably make my Bottom Ten List at the year's end.

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