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Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

The first Miss Congeniality (2000) was, if nothing else, a fine airplane movie: The comedy about a rough-around-the-edges FBI agent who goes undercover at a beauty pageant was amusing enough to make you smile and interesting enough to keep your attention, without being too complicated to follow on a tiny screen hanging five rows in front of you. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for its sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005), which takes an interesting concept — a female buddy picture — and wastes it, opting instead for clichéd fish-out-of-water humor and silly costumes. Picking up three weeks after the first movie ended, Miss Congeniality 2 finds Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) in a sticky situation: Made famous by the success of her pageant mission, she's become a liability for field work, which has always been her passion. An ill-timed breakup and her boss's suggestion that Gracie put her fame to work for the bureau instead of against it lead to her transformation into the "Face of the FBI" (aka "FBI Barbie," as Gracie puts it). Ten months later, a newly polished Gracie, swathed in couture outfits and custom cosmetics, is working the talk show circuit like a pro, pushing her book and trotting out prickly fellow Agent Sam Fuller (Regina King) to reluctantly demonstrate self-defense moves. But when Gracie's pageant buddy, current Miss USA Cheryl Frasier (Heather Burns), and pageant emcee Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped in Las Vegas, Gracie and Sam (along with Gracie's fey image consultant, Joel, played with a knowing wink by Diedrich Bader) soon find themselves caught up in the investigation, dodging a condescending bureau chief (Treat Williams) and donning a variety of disguises to find out what really happened. Predictably, by the time Gracie and Sam really have to start kicking butts, they've overcome their initial hostility toward each other and have bonded, grrl-power style. Frankly, it's not hard to understand why Sam can't stand Gracie for most of the film. Along with her new poise and outfits, made-over Gracie acquires a shallow, name-dropping, iced caramel latte-drinking personality; which would be a fine plot device if Bullock and the script took it far enough. Instead, enough of the old, down-to-earth Gracie remains that her character ends up caught in limbo — has she really changed, or is it just a put on? Does she really care that her Fendi bag is hitting the pavement, or is her concern for the guns inside it? That, combined with a jumpy storyline and kidnapping jokes that fall flatter than Gracie's old hairdo, makes Miss Congeniality 2 more frustrating than fun. Things pick up a bit toward the end of the movie, when Gracie and Sam are hot on the bad guys' trail and their banter has somewhere to go besides "I don't like you," but it's too little, too late. Both King and Bullock are capable comediennes, but even they can't overcome bad writing and big feather headdresses. Warner brings Miss Congeniality 2 to DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (French 5.1 audio and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available). The disc's only extras are the theatrical trailer and five deleted scenes, one of which features Jeffrey Tambor as a limo driver played in the final film by Stephen Tobolowsky. Neither version of the scene makes much sense, but the fact that it was completely revamped and recast is intriguing; maybe Tambor had the sense to get while the getting was good. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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