Here's a little quiz to determine how receptive you'll be to the new film Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. When confronted with the following joke, how do you respond? FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) has been told that a suspect looks like Dolly Parton. While in a Las Vegas casino, she spots a short, blonde woman exactly matching that description. Gracie gives frantic chase, weaving in and out of the casino for five whole minutes screaming, “Stop, fake Dolly Parton! Somebody stop that fake Dolly!” Eventually, Gracie tackles her quarry, at which point it is revealed that the suspect is—surprise, surprise—the real Dolly Parton. At that point, do you say, A) “Ha, ha. Man, I knew it was gonna be Dolly Parton. I just had this feeling and then—bam!—there she is, the real Dolly Parton. Ha, ha. Genius.” Or do you say, B) “Wow, a badly telegraphed joke and a lame celebrity cameo. This is gonna be a long two hours.”
If you answered A, then you are the perfect audience for this unambitious sequel from the likes of director John Pasquin (who gave us the similarly unambitious Joe Somebody and Jungle 2 Jungle). Miss Congeniality 2 is the sort of film that rewards those seeking predictability and familiarity. There isn't a punch line you can't guess, a plot twist that will surprise you or a song in the soundtrack you don't already know all the words to.
Sandra Bullock, a charming actress who emerges more-or-less unscathed from even her worst films (28 Days, Hope Floats, Speed 2 and The Net to name just a few), returns to the role of “FBI Barbie.” After a bungled bank robbery investigation, Gracie's superiors come to the realization that a world-famous FBI agent who just won first runnerup in the Miss United States Pageant is no longer suitable for undercover work (to which I offer up a hearty “Duh!”) As a result, Gracie is dolled up once again by a gang of stylists and sent on the talk show circuit as “the new face of the FBI.” Wacky slapstick with Regis Philbin ensues.
Gone is the romantic comedy of the first Miss Congeniality, replaced by your standard-issue “Buddy Cop Comedy” formula. Seems that Gracie is now partnered with short-fused tough gal Sam Fuller (Regina King from Ray). Naturally, they hate each other. Naturally, they'll be hugging before the end credits roll.
A plot eventually emerges when Gracie's old pal Cheryl (Heather Burns), the reigning Miss United States, and Stan Fields (William Shatner), the cheesy host of the pageant, are kidnapped in Las Vegas. Gracie and her partner are ordered to stay out of the investigation. But, of course, they don't, leading the local FBI chief (Treat Williams) to shout out the rustiest, most recycled dialogue about hating “loose cannon” cops and threatening to revoke badges.
The investigation continues with slightly more logic than your average Three Stooges short. This is the sort of film where, in the end, every single bad guy could sue the government for millions based on police brutality, harassment and a total disregard for things like evidence, warrants and jurisdiction. Then again, it's not like “Law & Order” addicts will be the primary ticket buyers for Miss Congeniality 2. The finer points of police procedure will undoubtedly be lost on those audience members guffawing along to Bullock and King pretending to be men in drag performing Tina Turner's “Rolling on the River” (the film's comic “high point”—and one lifted directly from last year's not-so-funny Connie & Carla).
Miss Congeniality 2 expends the minimum effort needed to construct a sequel. In the process, it loses sight of the relative wit and charm of the original--a fatal misstep that will cause even the most ardent of Sandy supporters to admit, “It's cute, but it's no Forces of Nature.”