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Photograph by Jerome Prebois

When Big Bird Attacks: Sandra Bullock goes undercover and overdressed to nab a suspect in 'Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.'

Been There, Seen That

Even our lingering goodwill for Sandra Bullock can't salvage 'Armed and Fabulous'

By Richard von Busack

THIS WEEK'S slipshod sequel has a few redeeming qualities. One of them is not the script, which goes like so: FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), dropped hard by her old boyfriend (Benjamin Bratt, offscreen) becomes a spokesperson for the FBI. In other words, she becomes an overdressed celebrity phony, hobnobbing with Regis Philbin.

She redeems herself by solving the kidnapping of Miss United States (Heather Burns, not at all bad) and the show's MC (beefy William Shatner, peppered with jokes about his singing, though I'd happily trade this new movie for one of his old records). Helping Gracie get her strength back is a tough black agent named "Sam Fuller" (Regina King). Sam Fuller indeed—here the screenwriting rule of never mentioning a better movie or moviemaker than your own gets broken a dozen times in one blow.

All the men are ineffectual idiots, and Sam and Gracie become close partners. So Sam's passing mention of a "hot guy" unquote—after a movie-long disinterest in guys of any temperature—is the most patronizing lesbian-proofing in years. Let's set that matter aside, along with The Santa Clause's director John Pasquin's dearth of style, craft or comic timing.

What's interesting here is Bullock's playfulness, undiminished as usual by the depressingly commercial choices she makes—the snorting laugh (picked up at Lily Tomlin's garage sale) still appeals. People will forgive her for this movie, because Bullock still has something even this late in the game. If this movie can drop Sam Fuller's name, let's go further—maybe Bullock will be Ida Lupino someday. Plus the gawky, coltish actress is a role model for young girls, and fortunately she's very aware of that fact (the self-conscious plot about the fear of turning show-biz faker must be evidence of Bullock's worries). Miss Congeniality 2 is almost redeemed in the last scene, when Hart undoes a little girl's hair ribbons—a sort of apology from the movies, for that unforgivable Ally Sheedy makeover at the end of The Breakfast Club.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (PG-13; 115 min.), directed by John Pasquin, written by Marc Lawrence, photographed by Peter Menzies and starring Sandra Bullock, Regina King and William Shatner, plays valleywide.

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From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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