Bless her, poor Sandra Bullock just doesn't get the scripts he deserves. But when she's the producer, as she is on Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, she has no excuse, unless the price of a new draft is prohibitive. Bullock's quippy snippiness isn't enough to overcome the lackluster direction of John Pasquin and the creatively bankrupt screenplay by Marc Lawrence.
Lawrence directed one and penned three of Bullock's prior movies, including Miss Congeniality, but this one's shtick never sticks. Lawrence temporarily sidelines Bullock's grumpy "Lucy" shtick to turn her snortin' tough gal Gracie Hart into preening style queen Elle Woods (of Legally Blonde). It's a betrayal of Gracie's character, the better to allow her feminist rebirth in the end. Lawrence means it to be the bookend to the first movie's feminist-discovers-her-femininity plot, but it comes off as annoying.
Three weeks after the events of the first film, Hart's too famous to do her job as an FBI field agent, so she agrees to become "the face of the FBI" (Bullock nails the visual joke of grimacing as she entertains the idea). The early scenes are a hoot, until we have to live with the premise and its consequences. Ten months later, Hart's a prissy, plasticine celebrity making life miserable for her FBI-issued bodyguard, Sam Fuller (Regina King). Hart enjoys pressing the angry-by-nature Fuller's buttons, but when Miss United States Cheryl Frasier (Heather Burns) and pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped, Hart can't help herself: she has to get on the case.
In Miss Congeniality 2's favor, Bullock has nice chemistry or, rather, comic friction with King, who skillfully projects her character's testiness and underlying need. Diedrich Bader and Treat Williams don't embarrass themselves too much as a personal stylist and FBI head, respectively. Though Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, and Benjamin Bratt are no-shows (in Bullock's best scene, Bratt's character dumps Gracie by phone), cameos by Shatner and Eileen Brennan (as his mother!) goose the picture momentarily. Shatner's not around nearly enough, but no one can milk lines like "I've done quite a bit of theatre. I played Iago in Twelfth Night!" and "There's a cannon in my porthole" like my man The Shat.
Lifting an idea from last year's flop Connie and Carla (which, in turn, lifted it from Victor/Victoria), the movie climaxes with Gracie and Sam posing as drag queens in a Vegas competition. This section finds the film at its most annoying, unbelievable, and nakedly commercial (see Treasure Island now, in dazzling Las Vegas!). Okay, seeing King sing "Proud Mary" in Tina Turner drag, with Bullock as her inept backup dancer, is pretty entertaining, but the ensuing chase—purposefully ndermined by embarrasing costumes—has been done to death, and the life-threatening peril that faces Bullock in the end simply doesn't adhere to reality. If Miss Congeniality is a consolation prize, let's hope Miss Congenialty 2 is a parting "gift."