Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous Review
In the original Miss Congeniality, FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) underwent a transformation from snorting tomboy to potential beauty pageant winner in order to solve a crime. The original film was a whimsical romantic comedy that showcased Bullock's comedic talents extremely well. And so someone, in their no-doubt infinite wisdom, decided that a sequel was a good idea…
This film picks up not long after the events of Miss Congeniality, but with the rather surprising revelation that FBI Agent Eric Matthews (played by Benjamin Bratt, who doesn't appear in this film) has broken up with Gracie. Considering how the first film took their romance as one of its central themes, this news at the start of the sequel is more than a little inexplicable – though the writers do of course manage to cobble together a (weak) reason for it. Naturally the truth of the matter is that Benjamin Bratt could not be secured for this film, either due to finances or to a lack of desire for a sequel on his part... but I think they could surely have sent his character on an undercover mission to explain Gracie's solitude much more believably.
Anyway, Gracie's notoriety from the pageant business is getting in the way of her regular FBI duties, especially when she gets recognised whilst ostensibly 'undercover'. It's this fame that leads her FBI superiors to decide that Gracie is in fact no longer suitable for field work... and they instead offer her the role of PR face for the FBI. To aid her in this position, she's provided with a brand-new stylist, Joel (Diedrich Bader), and Gracie starts to again metamorphose from a serious FBI agent into a fluffy, superficial woman more concerned with maintaining a good public image than with solving crimes. Morever - and much to both their chagrin - Gracie is also assigned an assistant/bodyguard: FBI agent Sam Fuller (Regina King), an angry young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Oh yes, we've clearly moved from romantic comedy directly into buddy movie territory.
The real action gets going when her old friends Miss United States (Heather Burns) and Stan Fields (William Shatner) get kidnapped and Gracie insists upon heading to Vegas to assist in the investigation. Of course, by this time her PR persona has taken over and no-one remembers she was ever a decent investigative agent. In particular, the head of the FBI in Vegas (played by Treat Williams) is fairly dismissive of Gracie in every respect – but it's his annoying demeanor and actions that help Gracie and Sam finally get closer and start to work together. He also assigns FBI agent Foreman, a rather sweet and nervous man, to show the girls the ropes in Vegas.
The plot is pretty straightforward from this point on and involves chasing Dolly Parton, singing in a drag bar (pretending to be men pretending to be women), solving some very basic crimes, and going against her superiors in the FBI... but primarily the theme is finding friends and learning what friendship means. Aww. As you might be able to gather from this short summary, it's an extremely fluffy bit of film-making without much of the charm of the original.
The cast play out their stereotypical roles with aplomb though. Regina King is definitely watchable as Gracie's disgruntled 'partner-against-her-will' and Diedrich Bader naturally gets handed the lion's share of entertaining lines and mannerisms as Gracie's stylist (replacing the role played by Michael Caine, who also makes no appearance in this sequel). Sandra Bullock seems generally on auto-pilot, however; she's put in so many comedic performances lately that it comes as no real surprise that she can pull this one off without making any particular effort. There's no standout bad acting here, mind you; it's just not a very exciting film.
Then again, it's probably not meant to be exciting, but merely amusing. Fortunately in this latter aim Miss Congeniality 2 does enjoy some modest success; it is entertaining and it does work within itself. I think the biggest disappointment for me was that it didn't seem to flow very well from the original film, which I actually enjoyed a lot. There were just a few trademark Gracie moments, but they seemed to have been added merely to remind us how much better the original was.
The release of such a recent film shouldn't be tainted with any major glitches and indeed this DVD seems to be fine from a video perspective. I didn't spot any grain while watching this anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, and the overall quality is very good throughout, and benefits from a palette of very distinct (and true) colours and natural skin tones.
For much of the film the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seems like needless overkill. The rear speakers only really get a workout towards the more action-based latter bits of the film. That being said, when the surround sound does kick in, it's to good effect and works well. Throughout, dialogue is clear and understandable, untainted by any background noise, be it sound effects or music. Overall a very tidy audio experience... not particularly innovative, but good enough for the film. There's also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but I didn't listen to that. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.
The most surprising thing about the special features on this disc is how few in number they really are. As it stands, there's only a handful of additional scenes and the theatrical trailer. The additional scenes last about 12 minutes and it has to be said that although they're fairly unremarkable, each could have found a home within the film without any detrimental effect. The trailer is just as you might expect: not the best you've ever seen, but it also doesn't promise to be anything the film isn't.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is a fun piece of fluff, unlikely to set anyone's world alight. This sequel captures only some of the elements of the original film, mainly because of the hamfisted shift from romantic comedy to buddy movie. There's some entertaining sequences buried in an otherwise very predictable plot, with decent (but not standout) performances all around. The lack of extras is a bit of a disappointment where the DVD is concerned, but the picture and audio quality make this a solid enough proposition for those who expect to watch this more than once.