Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

Rubbish. But rubbish with Bill Shatner in it!

Released in 2005, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 01 Apr 2005 by Scott Morris
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You may remember the underground, noir-esque classic that was 2000's Miss Congeniality, truly a masterwork but one which left us wanting more. Oh, hang on. No, that's not quite right is it? Miss Congeniality was that banal puff-piece with Sandra Bullock as an F.B.I. agent entering a beauty pageant for some reason, wasn't it? The one which needed a sequel as much as I need to be fired out of a racoon-filled cannon? Ah, right. I'm with you now. Sorry for the confusion.

Mz. Con 2 sees Gracie Hart (Bullock) returning to field ops for the Feds, although her new-found fame renders her useless at the sort of blending-in tasks typically required of surveillance operations. A liability to the squad, she's offered a choice of career path; Drive a desk until retirement or become the new, media friendly face of the spooks. After approximately four seconds of soul-searching, she accepts. She's joined on the chat show rounds by tough talkin', gratingly irritatin', attitude problem havin' Agent Sam Fuller (Regina King) despite the fact neither can stand the other because of course, this is exactly how law enforcement agencies divvy out partners, based on potential for comic mismatches rather than building cohesive teams. In related news, Gracie has been instructed to go down the 'prissy diva' character development route by her stylist Joel (Diedrich Bader).

This tedium has taken around an hour to unfurl, with both of the lead characters going out of their way to be irritating in entirely distinct ways. Quite why I, or anyone else for that matter, am expected to care about two utterly obnoxious 'people' if we can do their stereotypes a grandeur it does not deserve is a question that shall no doubt vex scholars of these times for generations to come. While these two clowns are busy getting on both my own and each other's tits, the reigning Miss America Cheryl (Heather Burns) and show host Stan Fields (William Shatner, continuing his career of comedy cameos) are kidnapped by the vile brothers Steele, Karl (Nick Offerman) and Lou (Abraham Benrubi). It would be remiss of me not to point out that these are the most likable characters featured thus far.

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Anyhoo, Hart and Fuller fly to Las Vegas, scene of the crime, supposedly to handle the P.R. on the high profile case, but with her close friends whom she hasn't spoken to in the year-ish that's supposed to have taken place between films in Mild Peril or Adult Situations she can't sit on the sidelines. Setting up her own investigation after incurring the wrath of local F.B.I. boss for rugby-tackling Dolly Parton (no, really), she naturally has more success than the seventy-five agent strong official investigation because this is exactly how all serious crimes are most easily solved, preferably involving dressing up as old Jewish ladies to infiltrate an old folks home.

I suppose no sane person will be expecting a hard-hitting documentary from something like Miss Congeniality 2, but they'd be forgiven for expecting some light entertainment. As you may have gathered from the slightly derisory tone used thus far, there ain't a lot of entertainment to be had here, boyo. There is, I grudgingly concede, a few halfway amusing off-the-cuff remarks peppered throughout the misery. This is rather like saying Miss Congeniality 2 is like a meal where the meat is rotten, the sauce rancid and the potatoes weevil-infested, but at least the peas are nice.

I imagine you won't be too shocked if I reveal that the two initially warring partners end up the best of friends, or indeed that they save the day by following up preposterous leads to ridiculously contrived situations. Witness Fuller pretending to be a man pretending to be Tina Turner in some drag show, or rather don't witness said event should you know what's good for you. This film has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the nether regions, and much the same comic value for the recipient of both horrors. If you can't see the cringingly awful gag or poorly executed slapstick moment signposted in large neon letters aeons before the event then perhaps you'll have more joy, but for most in the audience they'll be operating about ten minutes ahead of the movie making it the first precognitive movie the world has seen.

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It's just all so teeth-grindingly predictable, so lowest common denominator. The stylist, Josh, is an outrageously camp homosexual. How startlingly innovative! Every single aspect of the film follows through with hackneyed, clich?d portrayals, but if it's daring innovation we were after it might not have been the best idea to see a movie helmed by this clown. John Pasquin, director of such prior art as Jungle 2 Jungle, Joe Somebody, The Santa Clause, T.V. series Home Improvement and presumably something along the way that doesn't involve Tim Allen. He gives proceedings the honour and dignity the script deserves, which is to say none whatsoever.

Sandra Bullock, for her faults, should be capable of doing this sort of stuff in her sleep. It's not like we have some intense campaign of Julia Roberts-style hatred against her. We even liked Two Weeks Notice. The few lines that show some wit are well delivered, and she looks the part even when in a ridiculous showgirl outfit. The minor characters fare better, with most of the slender fun emanating from the brothers Steele or their captives. Especially William Shatner, the comic legend. And it even looks like he means to be funny here. Stereotypical a character as he's saddled with, Diedrich Bader does wonders with Joel although how much of this is residual goodwill from his barnstorming bit-part in Napoleon Dynamite I'm not sure.

I suppose I'm not exactly in the target audience for this group, but then who exactly is? It seems to geared towards teenage girls, preferably tasteless, vacuous ones and their unfortunate boyfriends. With the sophistication of a monster truck rally and the debonaire wit of Freddie Starr, Miss Congeniality 2 for most people will be more of a punishment than a reward. If I have dissuaded one person from seeing this film who otherwise would have, I will consider my life worthwhile.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks. This includes the obligatory Shatner Increment, because, well, look at him. Bill Shatner is a comedy God, and if you can't get behind that there's something wrong with you.

John Pasquin
Cast list:
Sandra Bullock (Gracie Hart)
Regina King (Sam Fuller)
Enrique Murciano (Jeff Foreman)
William Shatner (Stan Fields)
Ernie Hudson (McDonald)
Heather Burns (Cheryl)
Diedrich Bader (Joel)
Treat Williams (Collins)
Abraham Benrubi (Lou Steele)
Nick Offerman (Karl Steele)