Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous 

(PG-13) 2 Stars

(PG-13) 2 Stars
In 2000, I wrote the following about Miss Congeniality: "Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent forced to go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant in this lazy, but affable comedy. For the premise to work, you must accept Bullock as a tomboy utterly lacking in social skills. She gives it her all (too much, in fact - that snorting laugh gets old fast), but can't pull it off. Though the film has numerous amusing moments, it feels more like an extended skit than a real story."
Max Shippee, Sandra Bullock and Regina King
Imagine a similar film, only more frantic, less funny and without the central storyline. Viola! You have just vicariously experienced Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. This movie is product. It exists because sequels generally can be relied on to make around half as much as the originals and this particular original made a great gob of cash. So here it is in all its vulgar busyness, even though I doubt if any soul on Earth ever said, "Why, I certainly loved Miss Congeniality. Oh, if only there was more!" I won't cover the plot here, because it was only constructed as a means to move the players from one slapstick sketch to the next. Instead, let's take a look at the set-up. FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is back, still a socially flummoxed tomboy, but now a famous one, thanks to the events of the first film. In fact, she is so famous that undercover work is no longer practical. At the behest of her boss (Ernie Hudson), she agrees to do a stint on the publicity circuit, becoming "the new face of the FBI." Girling her up for the new gig is image consultant Joel (Diedrich Bader). A few words about the Joel character and Diedrich Bader, who was the tall, dark-haired regular on The Drew Carey Show. Didn't watch the series? OK, he was also Jethro in the movie version of The Beverly Hillbillies. Didn't see that either? Nevermind. Suffice to say that he is a likable fellow with a great goofy grin and a pleasantly giddy quality. His sweet nature is helpful for the appreciation of Joel, who is a walking museum of tired gay stereotypes. He is an effeminate, socially aggressive, man-crazy fellow who is thrilled at the idea of dressing up in drag. You know, the way the Christian Right believes all gay men are. Back to the set-up. Gracie also gets a bodyguard, a tough girl named Sam Fuller (Regina King) with an anger management problem and a strong dislike for Gracie. Miss United States (Heather Burns) and pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner) return from the first film to be victims, Indianapolis native Abraham Benrubi and Nick Offerman play sibling bad guys, and Enrique Murciano and Treat Williams are given dispos-a-roles. Regis and his wife do thankless cameos, as does Dolly Parton. A large portion of the film takes place in Las Vegas, because filmmakers understand that when they are dealing with an overwritten, underwhelming storyline, the glitz of Las Vegas helps to distract the audience. The amiable Sandra Bullock struggles to be convincing as klutzy outsider Gracie, and the strain is as uncomfortable to witness as her snorting laughter is to hear. Regina King has little to work with as the bulldog sidekick. When the two characters finally bond, it is less than convincing. Give the film points for not making us watch Gracie's transformation into FBI spokesperson and for not including a romantic subplot. Take a few points away for a screenplay so overwritten that it takes nearly two hours to wrap everything up. Bottom line: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is as unwieldy as its title and just about as funny. But you knew that.

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