For those stargazers paying attention, the vault’s gone and pulled of a Grace Hart-style sting – an undercover You Decide… Sequel Suicide? sting! The less glamorous way of putting it is saying the vault neglected to mention last Tuesday’s Miss Congeniality induction would be a Sequel Suicide. Either way we’ve arrived at the same point; the induction of Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous!
Three weeks after her heroic efforts at the Miss United States Pageant, FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is having trouble settling back into the job. Her celebrity status makes it impossible for field work and her budding relationship with Agent Matthews has ended. Down and desperate for a change, she accepts the opportunity to become the new face of the FBI. Ten months later, Hart’s good friend, Miss United States Cheryl Frasier (Heather Burns), and emcee Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped and ransomed. The now unrecognizable Hart is sent to Vegas for public relations, but Gracie has no intention of sitting on the sidelines much to the chagrin of Asst. Director Collins (Treat Williams) and her ill-tempered bodyguard, Sam Fuller (Regina King). With lives on the line, Gracie ditches the Dolce, disobeys orders, and dusts off her cracker-jack instincts.
This time around Bullock is also in the producer’s chair, as is writer-producer Marc Lawrence who pens this installment in the life of Gracie Hart. This story, directed by veteran TV director John Pasquin, is structurally on par with the mystery and the humor of the original, but it pales in comparison.
The story fails to draw audiences in as effectively as the first. There’s a five-year gap between films even though the story occurs less than a year after the pageant. Had the sequel been made within two, even three years of the original, it may have fared better. One might argue that doesn’t matter since it’s a familiar, well-liked character, but within the opening minutes her handler, Joel Meyers (Diedrich Bader), without even the tiniest of montages, transforms Gracie into a poised, smiling, and wholly unrecognizable character.
That, coupled with Gracie’s thoroughly unlikable bodyguard Sam, stunts the audience connection. Bullock and King’s performances aren’t the cause; the two actresses play exactly to their characters. I particularly enjoy when Bullock drops in old Gracie’s attitude when her frustration grows. The real problem is Gracie and Sam’s inevitable friendship takes too long to manifest, mostly due to the story’s many other distractions, like the side plot involving Vegas liaison Foreman (Enrique Murciano) and repeated berating from the annoying Collins.
Armed and Fabulous earns brownie points for casting Nick Offerman as loan shark and kidnapper, Karl Steele. He and his brother Lou (Abraham Benrubi) are both funny and intimidating. It’s nice to see he was working long before his Ron Swanson days. I’m forever a fan of Diedrich Bader and his cavalcade of quirky roles and I can now add GRacie’s assistant to that list. There’s a brief, but funny cameo by Dolly Parton and though not technically a cameo, you can catch a glimpse of the now Academy Award winning Octavia Spencer in a miniscule role.
Sandra Bullock and Regina King deserve praise for their portrayals, but their work alone could not hoist Armed and Fabulous above mediocrity. There’s too much meandering through superfluous, and only mildly amusing, plot points which overwhelms any sense of urgency from the race-against-the-clock premise. This buddy comedy needed to cultivate its buddy’s relationship more deftly to secure a more congenial audience.