At first conceptual glance, "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" has the likelihood of being a stinker. Sequels, for the most part, disappoint. Then again, not all sequels feature Sandra Bullock. Surprisingly, this is actually the better effort of the two films.
In MC2, we revisit Gracie Hart, Bullock's tough-as-nails-and-socially-clueless FBI agent, just a few months after her success in the Miss United States pageant – see the original for more details. She is now a recognizable celebrity to the great detriment of her role as an undercover agent, a job that defines who she is. This jarring realization is immediately followed by being dumped by a fellow agent – a romance which began in MC1 with the yummy Benjamin Bratt. Suddenly, Gracie feels powerless in her life. So, when she is asked to do some much-needed PR for the FBI, Gracie begrudgingly accepts.
Hitting the talk shows, Gracie eventually succumbs to the attention and soon morphs into an FBI Barbie doll. When her pals, Miss Universe (gamely played by Heather Burns) and pageant MC Stan Fields (a wonderful comic turn for William Shatner) are kidnapped in Vegas, FBI brass relegates Gracie to press conference duty which, of course, is not nearly enough action for her.
With hilarious cameos from Dolly Parton, Eileen Brennan and Regis Philbin, "Miss Congeniality 2" is solid good fun. I can appreciate a film that is thoroughly and completely what it professes to be – nothing more, nothing less - and MC2 hits the mark dead on: this is a very funny, tightly written ensemble piece worth the time. Sandra Bullock's natural comedic talents raise the bar and keep it there. Special kudos go to Diedrich Bader who captured the gay stylist, Joel, with alarming comedic accuracy.
Gracie is paired with combative agent Sam Fuller, played with fierce intensity by Regina King, recently seen in the movie "Ray." Gracie and Sam don't hit it off initially though they do hit each other quite a bit – they are both awkwardly violent with their emotions. Scratching at the surface of these two defensive females in one late night talk, we find some depth – not enough to make it preachy, just enough to make them real.
For all that it was, I especially appreciate what MC2 was not. It did not feel obligated to drudge up a new love interest to automatically replace the old one. Instead, it makes the subtle point that a solid friendship may be just the thing to pull you through. MC2 also gives a nod to any little girls watching – don't revamp your looks to please others, just be who you are – even if you are a dork; Ms. Bullock/Gracie define this philosophy.
While Bullock is not an actress in the Nicole Kidman realm, she is very secure in what world she does inhabit and she does it with skill and conviction. Never has such a beautiful woman been such a goofy, clumsy tomboy with such sincerity; it's Lucille Ball in a man's world – firearm and feathers included. Dare I say it? It's 2005, boys, and this is what a feminist looks like.
© 2005 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 3/23/05
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
USA - 2005