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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (review)

Petty in Pink

It’s off to Vegas for FBI agent Gracie Hart. Or is it back to Vegas? Was Miss Congeniality 1: Even Grown Women Can Be Juvenile Idiots set in Vegas too? I’ve tried to hard to forget that film, and now it all comes rushing back, like the kind of nightmare you wake from with a scream, in a sweat, and vowing never to sleep again. All that girly squealing and female bonding over evening gowns — ack, make it stop!
Anyway, Hart is back, and she’s still Sandra Bullock, alas, with her phony “adorableness” that’s half laughable Hollywood concept of what it means to be “bohemian” and half deep self-hatred of the attempt at individuality. Any cuteness that might have been found in such a schizophrenia departed when Bullock hit 40 — surely by that point, a female person can finally be expected to be, you know, an adult woman? But no: Gracie must once again undergo a ritual transformation from “frumpy” (ie: attired in a manner befitting a federal law-enforcement officer not undercover) to “fabulous” (ie: the kind of look that requires a full-time team of stylist, hairdresser, and makeup artist, one not achievable unless one has eight hours a day to devote to physical appearance and wardrobe, and of course the money to support such an endeavor). And of course, this being a Hollywood film, there’s a schizophrenia in this transformation, too: The aim is to get Gracie to a point, at the end of the film, at which she realizes that’s better to be yourself than to be someone you’re not, even if your true self is Federal Frump — and even though she already learned this lesson in Miss Congeniality 1; damn, is she the dumbest FBI agent, like, ever? But of course it’s the “real” Gracie, the one with the frizzy hair and the dumpy wardrobe and the uncouth manners, who’s the object of scorn, and not the fake one who spends more in a day on hair-care and manicures and clothing than a typical FBI agent makes in a month. That Gracie is “fabulous.”

So sit back, relax, and claw your eyes out as Hart, the “new face of the FBI” whose job now entails signing autographs for “fans” and hosting press conferences, heads to Vegas to solve the kidnapping of Miss United States (Heather Burns: You’ve Got Mail), her pageant pal from the first film, as well as pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Showtime). Well, she’s not actually there to solve the case, just to promote the solving of it to the news media, but despite the fact that Hart is distracted by all sorts of chores she supposedly hates but seems to get immense enjoyment out of, like running in high heels and denigrating other women for their ungroomed eyebrows, she waltzes in and solves the crime that 75 dedicated agents on their home ground could not. It’s not that she’s supposed to be so smart — it’s that all the other agents are ridiculously dumb, as if Gracie can triumph only if her competition is severely hobbled.

This rerun of Hart’s adventures in style over substance is so small and cheesy, in fact, that it feels like a minor episode of a third-rate TV cop show from Stephen J. Cannell, one that airs on basic cable in the middle of the night. The only thing that kept this thin, bland gruel of inconsequential characters, scrawny story, and feeble wit from heading straight to DVD is Sandra Bullock’s (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Murder by Numbers) name — her actual presence does nothing to elevate the proceedings. You can totally imagine Gracie running into other TV characters and not being able to hold her own against them. Like, say, Gil Grissom’s nightshift CSI team, seeing as she is on their home turf, after all. Grissom would scowl a lot at her idiotic scatterbrainedness and say things like “I guess our federal friends really are so overextended with the war on terror that they’ve got to scrape the bottom of the barrel for ordinary kidnappings,” and Catherine would scowl a lot and say things like “Oh, pul-leeze, as if that boa and those heels could make her fabulous.” And Gracie’s new partner, Sam Fuller (Regina King: Ray, Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde), could actually follow through on her threat — “I can’t deal with her. I’ll kill her. And I’ll enjoy it.” — and then, if we got lucky, Grissom and Catherine would get to see Gracie’s decayed and mutilated body pulled from a dumpster behind a seedy rundown casino, or from a shallow desert grave where she’d be all desiccated and stuff.

We don’t get to see that. But Regis Philbin does take a knee to the groin in one scene, so the film isn’t a complete and utter waste.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sex related humor

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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