Long ago in a galaxy far away, it seems now, Sandra Bullock was America’s sweetheart. Well, one of them anyway. For a time, she gave charming performances in relatively small films such as 1993’s underrated Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. And then, in 1994, she hit it big with Speed. Like the out of control bus she drove in that breakthrough smash, her career has been on a collision course with disaster ever since thanks to a combination of bad taste, bad choices, an almost delusional belief in the redeeming power of her own cuteness not to mention good old fashioned greed.
The disasters started coming right away (Two If By Sea, ’96) and just kept on coming (the bar-loweringly bad Speed 2, ’97, Practical Magic, ’98, Forces of Nature, ’99, Gun Shy and 28 Days in 2000, Murder By Numbers and Two Weeks Notice in 2002). One of the disasters she also made in 2000, Miss Congeniality, somehow managed to tap into an international vein of bad taste and generate a worldwide gross in excess of $200 million. If not for that bit of luck with the bean counters, Bullock-I think it’s safe to say-would not be in business today. She’d be an asterisk. A “Where Are They Now?” segment on a weekend edition of “Entertainment Tonight.”
Its sequel, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is Sandra Bullock’s last stand and, barring a global display of bad taste unprecedented in the annals of motion picture attendance, it will be her last major release as well.
Dumber than this one they simply do not come. The actress reprises the role of FBI agent Gracie Hart who, in the first film, I understand, posed as a beauty pageant contestant. Apparently there was some sort of criminal scheme she was supposed to foil. You may be aware that the core joke there involved her being something of a klutz and Michael Caine being called in to give her a total style and poise makeover. As the second story opens, just three weeks have passed since the contest. Hart’s high profile success in the case has made her a celebrity. She’s too recognizable to be able to do the undercover work for which she’s been trained so her bosses decide to capitalize on her appeal and make her the “new face” of the bureau in an effort to improve its public image.
Though less than a month has gone by, Bullock inexplicably has forgotten everything she was taught by Caine, however. She snorts when she laughs. She pays minimal attention to hairstyling. She bumps into things and drops things. A lot. Whenever the script’s writers can’t come up with a funny line for her to say or a comic way to conclude a scene, they have Bullock drop or bump into something. That is, when they don’t have her fall down.
Another hilarious thing they do is hire Diedrich Bader to play a walking cliche of a homosexual style consultant. He swishes, makes naughty jokes about sailors and terrible puns (he giggles and tells one agent it’s been too long since he’s been debriefed) and just generally sets the gay rights movement back a couple of decades as he offers Bullock helpful hints like “chew with your mouth closed.”
On the other hand, his character’s a creation of towering genius next to the one played by Regina King. She costars as an agent who has anger management problems which aren’t helped by her being assigned to serve as Bullock’s bodyguard. The two hate each other from the start. So you know they’re sure to be best friends by the time the closing credits roll.
Just when you think the movie couldn’t sink any further, two of Bullock’s pals from the pageant are kidnapped by bumbling bad guys and held for ransom. This, of course, creates a conflict for the agent as her superiors tell her to stick to her PR assignment while her heart tells her to get out there and find her friends. She resolves this conflict by tackling and sitting on Dolly Parton outside a Las Vegas casino in addition to employing other madcap crime investigation techniques.
If you don’t find this one difficult to sit through, it’s probably time for a brain scan. I can’t think of a recent movie with more hackneyed gags and cliches and less impressive direction, writing or acting. If anyone would have told me back in 1997 that Sandra Bullock would someday star in a film that makes Speed 2: Cruise Control look good, I would’ve said they were crazy. Next to Miss Congeniality 2, it looks like frickin Citizen Kane.