Sunday, March 27, 2005

Miss Congeniality 2: Unarmed & Not Terribly Fabulous

I should recuse myself right here from writing this review: I am a Sandra Bullock fan. I try to see all her movies. I tend to like her in everything. Oh, c'mon -- surely there are movies you see just because of some star that's in it? (How else could I explain seeing six Jude Law movies in 2004?)

But this one doesn't measure up. The big title of this Bullock-produced movie is Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. She isn't armed through most of the movie, and that's the story in itself: her character becomes the FBI's public relations model by becoming a super-coiffed spokesperson that smiles out of necessity rather than genuineness. This new character isn't Fabulous, either, but tries to drive the story so that she sees the error of her movie ways and becomes real and appealing once again. But the movie fails to meet its goals, either in entertainment or showing Sandra in her best light, that of the everyday-but-very-appealing woman trying to make the best with what she's been given.

I loved Miss Congeniality, the original movie, for two reasons. First, it showed Ms. Bullock as we like to see her. She had obstacles to overcome, and in spite of her own stubbornness was able to do this AND win the guy at the same time, all on her own terms. But the best part about the first movie was the triumvirate of character actors: Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner. These three were so terribly over-the-top, almost parodies of themselves, and that device worked wonderfully. Michael Caine, especially, was effective and funny as the gay groomer who tries to change Sandra Bullock's character so that she could effectively appear in a beauty pageant.

Unfortunately, only one is here this time, Bill Shatner. But he's only given one or two lines, relegated to a cameo role, one that doesn't make use of his self-parodying gifts as the beauty pageant MC.

The guest stars who do appear are talented, to be sure, but they're not given dialogue that helps define them. I recognized several character actors from movies, Broadway and T.V. -- Enrique Murciano from Without a Trace, Elisabeth Rohm from Law and Order, Regina King from movies like Ray -- but the roles don't play to their talents. Regina King, especially, is wasted as a kind of sterile backdrop for Bullock's character. It's really too bad.

The only thing to recommend this movie is that there are a couple of laughs in the situations where Bullock can drop a sarcastic line, dialogue that the audience didn't seem to pick up easily, a problem that can be traced back to the movie's pacing. And the soundtrack is appealing, but only if you like r&b songs from the '80's. And there's always Bullock, who is as appealing as always but not enough to overcome the problems with script, pacing and character development.

Thumbs down for Miss Congeniality, the Dreaded Sequel, and we hope there will be no more. See the original.


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