Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed And Fabulous

There are creative reasons to make a sequel—expanding on the original, addressing questions left unanswered, sending characters off on new adventures, and so on—and then there are movies like Miss Congeniality 2, which are born entirely out of an accountant's ledger. If unnecessary sequels weren't so painfully superfluous, there would be entertainment value just in watching filmmakers twist themselves into knots, trying to find some justification for hitting the reset button. In the case of Miss Congeniality, they're in deeper trouble than usual, because the title refers to an undercover assignment in which ugly-duckling FBI agent Sandra Bullock participates in a beauty pageant. And since the sequel can't have her go undercover at yet another beauty pageant, what justification do they have for dolling her up again?

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Twenty minutes of long-winded exposition and crazy contrivances later, here's what they've come up with for Miss Congeniality 2: Now that her pageant exploits have made her a national hero, Bullock finds she can't return to field work without being recognized, so the FBI decides to give her a special appointment. The organization's image is hurting, and J. Edgar Hoover is no longer around to squeeze into an evening gown, so Bullock's superiors want her to tour the country as a glamorous spokesmodel for the FBI. But she's already reverted back to her graceless form, so she needs another extreme makeover, courtesy of a team of makeup-and-fashion consultants led by flamboyant agent Diedrich Bader, whose academy training apparently included a seminar on platforms vs. pumps. When the reigning Miss United States (Heather Burns) and event chairman William Shatner are held for ransom by grizzled thugs, Bullock and tough-as-nails colleague Regina King (playing a character named Sam Fuller, a reference that will surely have auteurists cooing) are on the case.

Even as sequels to bad comedies go, Miss Congeniality 2 seems completely at a loss for fresh ideas. Bullock's buoyant personality has slightly elevated most of the dire projects that have littered her career, but other than rehashing her franchise-specific snorts and unkempt hair, the film can only think to dress her up in funny disguises. This means the script has to come up with reasons for her to, say, infiltrate a retirement home as an old Jewish grandmother, or perform a sting operation at a Vegas drag-queen revue. And since the filmmakers have had a hard enough time just figuring out how a sequel to Miss Congeniality could exist in the first place, the setups are so labored that no punch line can salvage them. If the sequel's a hit, perhaps they can set the third movie in space. Why not?

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