Miss Congeniality 2 (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

I can understand a sequel to Star Wars. Or Superman. Or The Matrix. Or even Before Sunrise. But Miss Congeniality? Are Hollywood's executives so greedy and creatively bankrupt that they will take any property that made a tidy profit and churn out another installment? (In case you hadn't guessed, those questions are redundant.)

When 2005's dishonor roll is read on December 31, Miss Congeniality 2 will be on it. Whether or not it tops the list is yet to be seen, since the remaining nine months of the year offers ample time for more stinkers to sink to the bottom. Nevertheless, this is one hideous excuse for a motion picture - the kind of steaming sewage that occasionally makes life as a film critic seem like an exercise in self-immolation. It's vitriol, not congeniality, that the movie deserves.

Using slickly-made commercials, Miss Congeniality tries to fool us into believing it's an action/drama/comedy, but it doesn't take long to recognize that the action is routine, the drama is apt to induce cringing, and the comedy is stale. Director John Pasquin (who directed TV shows before graduating to the likes of The Santa Clause and Jungle 2 Jungle) and screenwriter Marc Lawrence mistakenly believe we're going to care about their simplistic, one-dimensional, charisma challenged characters, so they bypass opportunities for edgy, nasty satire in favor of saccharine character-building and bonding moments. Miss Congeniality 2 wants to be an action-drama with softball jokes thrown in to lighten the mood. Yet the sit-com nature of every situation proves to be a fatal impediment to this goal (as does the fact that Lawrence's script is a comedy sinkhole, leeching the humor out of potentially hilarious situations like Regis Philbin getting his ass kicked.)

The film opens shortly after the conclusion of Miss Congeniality. Benjamin Bratt (movie #1's obligatory love interest) and Michael Caine (movie #1's obligatory gay stylist) have departed the sinking ship, and William Shatner would have been wise to do the same (not that his role requires him to do much more than look befuddled). He can't need the money - not with a weekly gig on "Boston Legal" plus all those Priceline commercials. Sandra Bullock is back as Gracie Hart, whose newfound stardom as a beauty pageant contestant makes it inappropriate for her to participate in field work. So she becomes the "Face of the FBI," a PR position that allows her to sign autographs and dole out tips on hair care. When her old friends, Miss United States (Heather Burns) and Stan Fields (Shatner), are kidnapped by nefarious do-badders, she and her irascible partner, Sam Fuller (Regina King), fly from New York to Vegas to hold press conferences and do some investigating. The local FBI honcho, Collins (Treat Williams), tries to put a stop to the latter activity, which forces Gracie to turn into a rogue agent.

Sandra Bullock's participation in this movie smacks of desperation - the desperation of an actress trying to revive a career that was fading before she took some time off. This is a shrill, strident performance by someone who displays little or no aptitude for comedy or drama. (We know from past experience that Bullock has both, but they're not on display here.) It may be fair to lay at least some of the blame at Pasquin's feet since Miss Congeniality 2 treats us to a series of appalling performances. Not one member of the movie's cast can avoid an unflattering comparison to the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. Imagine, if you will, being subjected to that for nearly two hours.

There is a scene in Miss Congeniality 2 when our bumbling heroes end up at a transvestite lip-synch revue (men dressing as female singers and mouthing famous songs). It's a testament to the film's poor entertainment value that I wanted to watch the faux Liza Minellis and Tina Turners continue performing rather than return to the story. At least "Proud Mary" is a good song.

Miss Congeniality 2 doesn't have the decency to end when it should. Following the big rescue scene and the expected hugging and back-slapping, we are forced to endure an unnecessary 3-minute epilogue in which Gracie becomes a show-and-tell project for a schoolgirl. Although this ties in to an early scene in the movie (which 99% of the audience will have long since forgotten as a result of the brain cell-zapping power of so much awfulness), it functions as an in-your-face method of prolonging the agony, proving that not only are the filmmakers inept, but they're sadistic as well.

Miss Congeniality 2 (United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:50
U.S. Release Date: 2005-03-24
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1