Monday, March 28, 2005

REVIEW: Miss Congeniality 2

SPOILER WARNING is in effect, you have been warned.

The New Word of the day is: "McMovie." Refering to a film that bares overwhelming similarity to a McDonalds menu item as opposed to any other sort of food, i.e. any film that plays exactly the way that it's pitch, poster and title would indicate. Intentionally devoid of anything surprising, unexpected or "off" that might result in the audience getting a slightly different experience (good or bad) than they had anticipated upon seeing/hearing said pitch, poster and title.

Was anyone really so fond of "Miss Congeniality" that a sequel was really necessary? I don't know, thats why I'm asking. Occasionally certain McMovies (of which the original "Miss" was a prime example) attain a kind of following, which is impossible to predict because it defies all logical sense: By design, McMovies are bereft of the depth or layering that is usually essential to the formation of a fan-base. But, then, since there are people who are "devoted" to the Big Mac, (delicious, yes. worthy of worship? no.), I suppose it's possible that there is a grassroots groundswell of fans that were counting down the minutes till the next adventure of Gracie Hart. To such folks I can only say that A.) I mean no offense and, B.) you desperately need to see more movies.

Since I'm sure some of us have forgotten the premise (or, more luckily, the existance) of the original "Miss Congeniality," to recap: Tough, tomboyish FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) foiled a threat against the Miss USA pageant by going undercover as a contestant; an act which facilitated much alleged comedy and Hart's discovery that ::gasp!:: it's okay to be feminine, after all! As this unasked-for sequel opens, Hart's elevation to nationally-known celebrity following the pageant case has made her too recognizable to continue working as an undercover agent. Afflicted with the same crippling Pavlovian fear of a desk job!!!! that troubles all law-enforcement personel in derivative action-comedies, Hart agrees to be reassigned as the FBI's new top publicity-laison, where her fame will instead be an asset. First assignment: Las Vegas, where some thugs have abducted ::gasp!:: Gracie's buddy the current Miss USA and the pageant host (William Shatner) for ransom!

Hm, y'know something? I've got a feeling plucky Gracie Hart won't be content to just do her publicity job with her pals in trouble, no matter how much trouble it gets her in. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she even conveniently stumbles onto a case-cracking clue that the non-publicity agents refuse to believe, forcing her to take matters into her own hands. Call it a hunch.

The sequel offers a pair of additions to the franchise, both of whom are mistakes in their own way. First is Diedrich Bader as Gracie's clearly "Queer Eye"-inspired stylist. He replaces Michael Caine from the first film, and thus serves mainly as a broad unfunny joke trying to fill a hole left by the departure of the only modicum of class the original had. Really, folks, is the "effeminate gay stylist" bit actually still funny? Maybe, maybe not, but certainly Caine's character was funnier because he wasn't something totally worn out: The "stylist" character as an Obi-Wan style wise mentor was something (almost) sorta-new.

The second mistake is a new "foil" for Bullock, an even tougher, meaner and more tomboyish female agent with serious anger-management issues and an instant intense dislike for Gracie Hart which, by the logic of derivative action-comedies, makes her the obvious choice to be Hart's bodygaurd. The character, played by Regina King, is named Sam Fuller; and I'm willing to bet that almost no one who's willingly going to see this outside of critics and masochists knows why that's sorta funny. I could be wrong though. Fuller is a mistake because she's too shrill and hard to like for such a thinly-sketched character, and given too much screentime to boot.

It occurs to me that there was a way to make a much better movie out of Hart and Fuller's chemistry (such as it is) that the film almost seems willing to go for but never quite makes it. Frequent readers to this blog and friends of mine will easily deduce my thoughts, and are already rolling their eyes, but this time I'm being serious. Really.

Here me out on this: The film presents us with two female characters, one decidedly more "womanish" but both focused consistently on proving their proficiency at violence and aggression. They dislike eachother, they fight, they come to blows but slowly a mutual respect grows from their back-and-forth attempts to physically dominate one another. Both are single, and none-too-thrilled at men in general, (Fuller: "Men, can't live with `em... nope, thats all."), and while there is an available male character hanging around extraneously his love-finding ending doesn't occur with either of them. In fact, Fuller and Hart wind up with no one but eachother, exchanging post-victory action-heroine affections that no male action-duo would get away with straight-faced (if you'll pardon the pun.) Getting the idea?

In whats meant to be the "big" character scene, the two lady agents bed down together on a hastily-assembled guest-bed couch, and in pre-slumber smalltalk they bare their souls in the traditional manner of action-comedy lawpersons, i.e. exchanging stories of youthful skin-hardening and beloved, long-lost parents. Understanding grows, sympathy is exchanged, the subject turns to their innability to hold stable relationships with men, and... They go to sleep.

Okay, now am I really the ONLY ONE who can easily imagine a much more interesting, surprising and flat-out better way for that scene (and, thusly, the rest of the story) to play out? Hm? Cause I don't think I am...

But whatever, in the end thats just a little flight of fancy on my part. As it stands, the film goes exactly where it looks like it's going, exactly what you think will happen happens, and nothing has really been lost or gained but time and one more stinker in Sandra Bullock's column.

See something else.


1 comment:

Haze said...

I just wanted to say i enjoyed the review... it made me laugh quite a lot... and personally i don't think i would watch it...
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