Sandra Bullock's career has been quite a conundrum. America's sweetheart and an unquestioned A-lister, she nonetheless always comes up short, both critically and at the box office. So it should be no great surprise that her biggest post-Speed success has been a pair of middling comedies about an FBI agent undercover as a beauty queen, the first having grossed over 100 million dollars, hence triggering the production of a second. The heart and soul of Miss Congeniality was Gracie Hart's snort-laughing and socially maladroit ways, but those elements get pushed into the background of Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Perhaps not wanting to spend more time than necessary in Gracie's mannish wardrobes, Bullock sets aside the Gracie Hart persona, petitioning for a more Tracey Ullman role-playing approach to the proceedings. Toward this end, she spends the early scenes dropping brand names like a prissy perfume saleswoman, goes undercover in the middle as a kvetching retirement-home tenant, and finishes by playing, well, herself. The consequence is that the series switches from satire to buddy action comedy, with the fertile pageantry world survived only by the kidnapping victims, and it becomes more about the uneasy relationship between the suddenly meek Hart and her alpha female partner (Regina King). However it's categorized, there are enough laughs and sharp quips in Marc Lawrence's script to make Miss Congeniality 2 a good platform for Bullock's sympathetic goofiness, and her ardent fans should be pleased. But the fact that it barely made back its 45-million-dollar budget in ticket sales may not make it fabulous enough for a third outing.
by Derek Armstrong review