Another ‘Miss’: ‘Congeniality’ sequel manages to hit nothing but all the wrong buttons

“Miss Congeniality 2: Armedand Fabulous”Warner Bros.Directed by John PasquinWritten by Marc LawrenceStarring Sandra Bullock,Regina King, Dedrich BaderRated PG-13Opened nationwide on March24, 2005One out of four starsFoster KamerA&E WriterSo why is “Miss Congeniality2: Armed and Fabulous” soawful?Let’s face it-without gettinginto specifics, the demographica film like “Congeniality2″ targets is at thebull’s-eye of those ready andwilling to capitalize on thehearts of America’s naive andtrusting. This is a movie thatearns a gross in the worstway: by bold-faced lying toits impressionable and eageraudience.”Congeniality 2″ presentsa contrary notion of what isbeautiful: It tells its viewersthe inside is what counts, butfocuses on the ostentatiousbeauty of a gorgeous leadinglady. This movie is exploitivein that it lures audiences withone message, all the whileexploiting their internal insecuritiesand desires to itsbenefit.OK, we’ll get specific:”Congeniality 2” is targetingmiddle-school girls andmiddle-school girls-at-heart.There are lots of these. Everywhere.Like, Micronesia,everywhere. And they’re notall in middle school. “Armedand Fabulous’s”subversivenessonly gets moreevil.The film opensup three weeksafter the Hart’sheroics at thebeauty pageant,with Gracie beingdumped by onceboyfriendAgentMatthews (playedby Benjamin Brattin the first film,represented by aphone conversation,sans-Bratt,in this one) followinga standoffin which Graciebotches a bankrobbery sting bybeing recognizedfor her role insaving the pageant of the firstfilm.Seeing as how Gracie’snewfound celebrity couldonly hinder her fieldwork,McDonald (Ernie Hudson)and the higher-ups over at theFBI put her on a new mission:becoming the agency’s newpublic-friendly spokesperson.Gracie’s complete makeover,mostly detailed by a”Ten Months Later” title card,includes, but isn’t limited to,the acquisition of a personalstylist (Dedrich Bader, as ahomo-fab “Queer Eye” caricaturethat should insult gaymen everywhere), a book andsubsequent book tour and aRegis appearance.Of course, Gracie’s newlook has given her a newdecorum-that of a callous,self-centered celebrity whofinds herself butting headswith the gritty, nose-to-thegrindstone,anti-dispositionaltransfer Sam Fuller (ReginaKing). Are we actually beinglead to believe that celebritiesare callous and self-centeredegomaniacs? Or is thatjust a pretty cover for thefilms real message: The beautifulpeople you see on screenare what you want to be, yousad little kiddies.Before viewers confoundthemselves attempting to answersaid philosophical quagmire,the host and winner oflast year’s Miss Congenialitypageant, Stan Fields (Shatner)and Cheryl Frasier (HeatherBurns) are kidnapped outside-of all places-of Las Vegasby two bumbling moronswho hold them for ransom.Gracie gets sent on assignmentto do the spin doctoringon the kidnapping with Fulleras her bodyguard. As her inner-agent rises to the surface,Gracie has to face off againstagency beauracrats, shoddyleads and shedding her divabehavior in order to solve thecase.It sounds as awful as it is,and then some. The samejokes and themes from thefirst film are almost rehashedscene-for-scene: Gracie’spenchant for going underdisguise, the infamous laughsnort,Shatner’s cheeseball accentuationsalongside CherylFrasier’s blonde-joke clichdesperations. The theorymight have been to satirizethe metamorphosis Hart hadto go through inthe first film fromUgly Ducking toUgly Duckling withSwan-stylings, butin practice it endsup satirizing itself.If there’s anythingredeemingabout the film, itcould be ReginaKing, who, hungryas she’s been comingto every roleshe’s had of late,might be takingher turn in this filma little too seriously.She keeps herfire intact, though,and is a pleasureto watch nonetheless.Bullock’scharm remains thesame-ever glowing,always bound to turn up asmile or two in anybody who’sever had a crush on or wantedto be the girl next door,but make no mistake-she’sno thespian. She’s just reallygood at being cute…a fact thatbetrays everything the filmsays it’s supposed to be about(aka internal beauty).But that’s the problem-ifthe people behind “MissCongeniality 2: Armed andFabulous” actually put someelbow grease, thought andcraftsmanship into the film,they wouldn’t have let it becomesuch a parody of itself.The morale is supposed togo something like this: Beingbeautiful and entertaining isgreat, but being skilled andpassionate and heroic is better.Yeah, right. If that weretrue, then the film could’ve detailedGracie’s innate struggleto become beautiful, somethingso many people have ahard enough time grasping asa fruitless behind-the-curtaindesire as opposed to reducingit to a title card and watchingher deal with ‘finding her trueself’ and saving the day. Gracie’s’true self’ is just as beautiful,charming and funny asshe was when she dressedwell and stopped being a [email protected]