Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, by Albert W. Vogt III

Here we go with another Sandra Bullock film with Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005).  That sounds more uncharitable than is intended.  As I have said in other reviews of her films, I enjoy her work.  Still, they are kind of redundant.  Her sense of humor shines through, but the plots are usually similar.  That is why I appreciate a film like The Heat (2013).  It is not a romantic comedy, and she plays well off of Melissa McCarthy’s performance.  I also suspect that this sameness is responsible for her appearing in the wreck that was Bullet Train, though a repetitive movie in its own right.  And now we have Miss Congeniality 2, a sequel, which fits well with the theme I am developing.  It is not a bad movie, just not original.  At the same time, it does have Sandra Bullock, so it is at least watchable.

It is a few weeks after the events of Miss Congeniality (2000), and Miss Congeniality 2 begins with our runner-up to the Miss United States beauty pageant, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), doing what she loves best: going undercover and taking down bad guys.  Unfortunately, during an operation to stop a bank heist in Manhattan, her unwanted fame becomes a burden when she is recognized by one of the other hostages.  Though the robbery is still thwarted, barely, it means that Gracie’s days of being a field agent are over, to her disappointment.  She remains committed to serving the bureau, though, and with her boyfriend and fellow agent leaving her for a post in Miami, it is time for a new direction.  This is virtually chosen for her by FBI director Harry McDonald (Ernie Hudson), who wants Gracie to be the new face of the bureau.  To do so, they send her to what amounts to finishing school, complete with a style coach, Joel Meyers (Diedrich Bader), and a book tour about her experience as an agent in a beauty pageant.  In doing so, it means that her former position must be filled.  The person they turn to is Sam Fuller (Regina King), a no-nonsense agent from Chicago.  On the heels of Gracie’s transformation and publicity events, she is introduced to Sam.  Sam sees Gracie as useless, and Gracie takes offense and attempts to show that she still has what it takes to be a working member of the FBI.  To smooth out the growing rivalry, Harry assigns Sam as Gracie’s bodyguard.  They take this tense relationship to Las Vegas when they find out that the winner from last year’s Miss United States pageant and Gracie’s friend, Cheryl Frasier (Heather Burns), has been kidnapped there, along with the pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner).  Given Gracie’s connection to the two victims, she is eager to help.  To her disappointment, she is stonewalled by the director of the Las Vegas FBI field office, Walter Collins (Treat Williams), who wants Gracie to only be a spokesperson.  Of course, Gracie is unwilling to sit idly by and field questions from reporters.  Instead, she convinces Sam to help her go undercover and try and crack the case on their own.  Doing so yields a few leads, particularly on Sam’s part, who obtains surveillance footage suggesting that Stan rather than Cheryl might have been the target.  This is also helped by the kidnappers, brothers Lou (Abraham Benrubi) and Karl Steele (Nick Offerman), sending ransom demands from the shack in the desert where they are holding their prisoners.  Instead of spurring action, Walter is more annoyed with Gracie and Sam and wants to put them on a plane back to New York as soon as possible.  Walter remains fixed on finding where the Steele brothers are, while Gracie and Sam continue to garner their own clues.  This leads them to a drag bar in Las Vegas where a performer dressing up as Dolly Parton has information they need leading to the whereabouts of Cheryl and Stan.  As it turns out, they have been tied up in the pirate ship at the Treasure Island casino, and the Steele brothers intend to let their victims drown if their demands are not met.  On the way in, Gracie and Sam arrest the Steele brothers, but there is no stopping the show that is taking place outside.  The boat’s sinking, after all, is part of a pyrotechnic display that happens on a nightly basis.  It is Gracie that jumps into the water to save Cheryl and Stan.  She is able to free them, and they get out, but she is caught and now she is underwater.  It is Sam to the rescue.  With the case cracked, and Walter eating a sufficient amount of crow, it is time for Gracie to finally return to New York.  She is still acting as the face of the bureau, but less like a beauty queen and more like Agent Hart.  In this guise, she goes to schools to inspire kids to grow up and be like her.  The end.

Adding to the list of themes in Miss Congeniality 2 that you have seen in other films is learning to be who you really are. However, I am not sure that I covered this notion from a Catholic perspective.  If I have, please feel free to call me on it in the comments below.  In any case, there is a battle in many us as to who we think we are and who God wants us to be.  Such a conversation runs the risk of spiraling into a philosophical dimension of speculation on existence that I would rather avoid at the moment.  This is underscored when you bring in a conversation about free will.  The fact that God gives us free will, but that He also has a will for our lives, can seem like a paradox.  For the purposes of this review, Gracie wants to remain a field agent, but circumstances call upon her to take on a different role.  And therein lies the rub.  So much of following God’s will is about learning to accept our circumstances, to acknowledge the things beyond our control.  I find that those who are most miserable are the ones who cannot do this, regardless of their faith or belief in God.  If you can square yourself with those things (and I do not mean some nebulous notion like “going with the flow,” but something more specific), then you might find life a little easier.  This is where Gracie lands by the end of the film.

There is nothing objectionable about Miss Congeniality 2, unless you want to quibble about the drag show.  It does little to rail against such behaviors, particularly if you would like to see a change of heart.  Instead, I pray and hope for the best.  And I hope that you can make the best out of this movie because, again, it does have Sandra Bullock in it.

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