After a year of fresh, engaging sequels—Spider-Man 2 and Shrek 2 to name two—Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous serves to remind moviegoers why sequels are met with skepticism as soon as the follow-up projects are announced. It's because, all too often, they turn out like this.

Sandra Bullock is back as Gracie, who soon abandons the tomboy look

Sandra Bullock is back as Gracie, who soon abandons the tomboy look

Miss Congeniality 2 may be armed, but it's certainly not fabulous. It picks up not far chronologically from its popular predecessor, but it's light years away in terms of creativity and an engaging plot. FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), fresh off her headline-making turn in the Miss United States pageant, is back doing undercover work when she's recognized during a bank heist and the bust goes haywire. Question: Why did the FBI need a bust gone bad to realize that Hart probably wasn't undercover material anymore? It's just one of many plot devices that had me scratching my head.

Chief among the head scratchers is Hart's metamorphosis into FBI Barbie. Given the realization that she can't work in the field anymore, the FBI offers Hart a choice—push paper at a desk or let us capitalize on your fame and make you our spokesperson. She resists the spokesperson gig for five seconds until her boyfriend and fellow FBI agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt in the original, though he doesn't reprise his role here) breaks up with her over the phone and transfers to Florida. She, apparently reeling from the breakup of the relationship, decides to become the new face of the FBI.

Gracie (Bullock) becomes the glamorous spokesperson for the FBI

Gracie (Bullock) becomes the glamorous spokesperson for the FBI

Cue stylish gay guy.

Joel (Diedrich Bader) proceeds to reinforce every exaggerated homosexual stereotype as he gets Gracie camera ready and becomes her ever-present stylist. And in a literal blink of an eye (during which ten months elapse in movie time), Gracie goes from confirmed tomboy to a schmoozing, highlight-sporting, Chanel-wearing PR machine. She writes a best seller about her undercover life, and when a star-struck girl, a bit of a tomboy herself, comes to the signing, Gracie encourages her to do something with her hair, to try some bows because, "people care about people who care about themselves." Question: Where the heck did Gracie Hart go?

Well, in this movie, she goes to Las Vegas. Her best friend, Miss United States (Heather Burns, back from the first movie), and pageant spokesman Stan Fields (William Shatner, also back from the original), are kidnapped, and Gracie is sent to do PR while the Vegas bureau team runs the actual investigation. Accompanying her on this trip is Sam Fuller (Regina King), an agent with "anger management" issues who doesn't get along with anyone. She's charged with keeping the adoring public off of Gracie and proceeds to mete out a few beatings to said public, and to Gracie, in her zeal. I think they were supposed to be funny. They mainly just looked painful.

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Bullock and Regina King, playing Sam Fuller, make a bust

Bullock and Regina King, playing Sam Fuller, make a bust

Well, wouldn't you know it, it turns out the Vegas bureau, if not exactly corrupt, is inept and Gracie is compelled to take action on her own. She manages to make an ally out of Sam, to recruit a Vegas agent, and together with Joel the four of them race against the clock to save America's royalty.

A series of you-can-see-them-coming-from-a-mile-away plot developments ensue. I actually grimaced when Gracie and Sam, dressed as women pretending to men pretending to be women, took the stage at a drag club for a less-than-stirring rendition of "Proud Mary." It was the only way to get backstage to find the faux Dolly Parton who might be the key to the case, you see. All I have to say is, if "Proud Mary" can't save a movie, the movie can't be saved.

I think Sandra Bullock is a solid actress, but she hasn't picked a lot of winners in terms of projects. In Miss Congeniality 2, she certainly gives her best to the role. As do all the actors in my opinion. There's no slacking off, no winking to the audience with an "I know this dialogue, plot, costume, etc. stinks" performance. It's just too bad that a lot of the movie stinks.

Scenes like this are supposed to be funny, but they're not

Scenes like this are supposed to be funny, but they're not

In the end, Gracie and company save the day and that's perhaps the best thing that can be said about this movie. I admit I enjoyed several of Gracie's FBI Barbie outfits, but I suspect that actual FBI spokespeople would find ridiculous the idea that the bureau would spring for such garb, a full-time stylist plus hair and make-up people, and luxury digs while traveling. There is a bit of a lesson about identity and self-worth imparted here as well, but it's muddled at best. On balance, this runner-up is disappointing. No consolation titles here, just one final question: Who has two hours to waste watching this movie?

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What do you think about Gracie's advice that "people care for people who care for themselves"? Evaluate how Gracie's opinion of that statement evolved through the movie.

  2. Why do you think Sam Fuller was so angry all the time? Do you think her childhood experiences influenced her attitude as an adult? Is that an excuse? How do we sometimes blame our past for the way we act today?

  3. Both Gracie and Sam feel like they don't have many friends. Why do you think friendship is so important to people?

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The Family Corner

For parents to consider

This movie is too adult for children (and probably a bit too childish for adults). A few minutes in, as her boyfriend is breaking up with her, Gracie asks if sex was a problem and offers to get a manual. Joel, the gay stylist, offers frequent commentary with sexually suggestive overtones. And everyone ends up in a drag club at one point.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet

from Film Forum, 03/31/05

Just as Guess Who is earning mixed reviews as a "remake," Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is earning mixed reviews as a sequel.

Sandra Bullock reprises her role as FBI agent Gracie Hart, saving the Miss United States Pageant from danger by posing as—of course—one of the contestants. When this "fabulous" feat makes her famous, she has trouble going back undercover to save her endangered friends from a kidnapper.

Lisa Ann Cockrel (Christianity Today Movies) says it "serves to remind moviegoers why sequels are met with skepticism as soon as the follow-up projects are announced. It's because, all too often, they turn out like this. Miss Congeniality 2 may be armed, but it's certainly not fabulous."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) doesn't classify this as a "family film." She says, "Because of the content, parents should weigh this one very carefully, and my recommendation would be to err on the side of caution. On the other hand, adults, particularly women, will probably enjoy Miss Congeniality 2—even if it won't be winning any awards."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Bullock falls into the same sequel trap that has bested far better actors. Instead of working to develop a strongly identifiable character, she simply coasts on the strength of her work in the original film. As a result, much of the humor plays flat and lifeless."

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) writes, "After sitting through a casino full of predictable gay jokes, gaudy body slams and lame (or is that lamé?) performances, I just wanted to call the whole pageant off and go home."

But Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) sticks up for it. "This is lightweight stuff, but director John Pasquin succeeds in mixing the laughs and the action effectively. Bullock and [Regina] King make appealing sparring partners, and register genuine humanity underneath the slapstick. The film imparts an admirable message about friendship and remaining true to yourself throughout, and there are even several poignant moments."

Mainstream critics aren't feeling very congenial about this sequel.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sex related humor)
Directed By
John Pasquin
Run Time
1 hour 55 minutes
Sandra Bullock, Regina King, William Shatner
Theatre Release
March 24, 2005 by Warner Bros.
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