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Take Two 

by Cara Gardner

I wish Sandra Bullock had learned her lesson about Hollywood sequels after Speed 2. Instead, we find her (painfully) working for laughs during the uninspired sequel to Miss Congeniality, which, to be sure, wasn't good enough or big enough to warrant a second coming. Most of us realize, however, that a Hollywood sequel is just a way of milking extra dollars from a previous hit movie.

And so we pick up where the first film left off. FBI agent/beauty pageant star, Gracie Hart (Bullock) is finding it hard to adjust to undercover work now that everyone recognizes her after she saved the beauty queen during the Miss America contest. Her boss urges her to "become of the face of the FBI," by getting on the media circuit and promoting the agency. Enter stage right the stereotypical gay makeover sidekick, Joel (Diedrich Bader), to give the frumpy agent a new (yet completely unoriginal) look complete with product placement and glib style philosophy. I found myself wishing I'd just bought a fashion magazine; it would have been cheaper and slightly more entertaining.

Miss Congeniality 2 does the same exact thing as its predecessor: It transforms Bullock into a lip-gloss-wearing swan, has her parade through the movie doing sketch comedy in Prada and Chanel, solving crime by outsmarting her bosses using the Legally Blonde MO ("I might sound stupid but I'm oh-so on top of this situation") and then saving the girl at the last minute. She even saves the same girl in both movies, the only difference being the backdrop. In movie one, it was the pageantry culture; in movie two, it's the Las Vegas strip. (Is there much of a difference?)

The only two highlights in Miss Congeniality 2 are William Shatner, who plays Stan Fields, the former beauty pageant MC turned addicted gambler, and Regina King, playing Bullock's jaded FBI partner, Sam Fuller, who has anger management problems and gets to beat on Bullock throughout the flick. Shatner and King manage to shine despite the roles they're given. I found myself feeling sorry for them for having to be in the film.

Miss Congeniality 2 tries hard to be a chick flick about girl power, but it fails miserably. It's painfully short of real feminine authenticity, true humor or any semblance of what it's like to be a woman cop -- or, for that matter, a beauty queen.

Publication date: 03/31/05

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