Review: “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”

If there’s one thing consistent about Sandra Bullock is that she succeeds in spite of herself. Short of the first “Speed”, the actress has yet to deliver a role that’s particularly interesting. All of her work tends to be the same tired slapstick crap that’s barely passable entertainment, but she’s not someone whose work one can really say they despise – it’s not so much her fault but rather the vehicles she chooses. Usually the few successes she has depends not on herself but rather her supporting cast. “Murder by Numbers” is interesting for Ryan Gosling & Michael Pitt’s Leopold & Loeb style killers. The few chuckles of “Two Weeks Notice” were for Hugh Grant doing his standard and far superior comic schtick.

Then there’s the original “Miss Congeniality” which with greats like Michael Caine, Candice Bergen and William Shatner – not to mention a surprisingly good love interest from Benjamin Bratt – actually turned out to be an amusing little comedy. Not so the sequel which, whilst not stinking as much as it could have, still manages to reek – essentially the exact same thing that happened to the “Legally Blonde” franchise. The first film was hardly high concept but the beauty pageant idea lent itself to some gags. MC2 lacks not only the inspired casting of its progenitor but any real hint of a story either, relying on a kidnapping subplot that’s too silly to be realistic, but too awkwardly dark to be funny.

The main thrust of the story seems to be about Bullock’s new teammate Sam Fuller (Regina King), an aggressive ball buster who hates her at first but after experiences together the pair start to form a sort of simpatico – surprising? Yeah right. Added into this are a stock roles ranging from silly one-dimensional caricatures such as a gay personal designer (Diedrich Bader) to other storylines that just don’t fit into anything at all (ie. the blonde FBI woman’s sleeping around) or feel so awkward they really should’ve been cut (the phone call scenes explaining Bratt’s character absence). Set only three weeks after the original, the writers have had to avoid recent pop culture references and instead opt for tired gags involving drag, fashion labels (there’s so much Chanel in this movie it’s like a walking billboard), and a big showdown at a Las Vegas attraction.

The only redeeming thing is the casting. With the first films Burns and Shatner literally restrained by their roles (Shatner has two good lines in the whole film and even those aren’t much), the comedy is left predominantly on the shoulders of the leading trio of Bullock, King and Bader. Bullock is her usual self so there’s no surprise there, and the ‘buddy movie opposites’ style routine is old hat, but King especially seems to be relishing that she is getting some screen time after playing third fiddle in so many films.

Bader though is the only one who seems to be having fun – sure its the same flaming queen sidekick role we’ve seen countless times before but that doesn’t stop it from yielding the odd laugh. Also strong is “Without a Trace” hunk Enrique Murciano as a somewhat dim-witted FBI agent roped into helping out – not only is he a damn good looking guy but the character’s stupidity comes off without being trite or plaid for laughs which makes it appealing. The rest of the cast is a total wash, including Treat Williams.

The actors try and inject their characters with enthusiasm and expand on what little they’ve been given but it’s simply nowhere near enough. Marc Lawrence’s script is a complete mess, John Pasquin’s direction is very run of the mill and all the assorted sketches of attempted comedy try and utterly fail to win us over. Unlike other genres, comedy is a very tricky thing to generate a franchise out of – especially when we’re stuck with half-hearted wasted efforts like these.