Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous directed by John Pasquin, with Sandra Bullock, Regina King and Treat Williams. A Warner Bros. production. 115 minutes. Opens Thursday (March 24). For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NN Rating: NN
It's hard not to like Sandra Bullock.
As America's sweethearts go, she's the anti-Julia. No big hair, no diva attitude, and you can bet that if she ever procreates, that child will be given a name that doesn't provoke schoolyard beatings - no Hazel or Phinneas type she.
Moreover, at 40, when most female actors are deemed over the hill, Bullock remains the same girl-next-door beauty starlets half her age can only hope to become.
Too bad her material's getting old. Consider the career of her Oscar-winning rival. While the Pretty Woman is taking roles Cate Blanchett turned down, Bullock is stuck making crap à la Kate Hudson.
Let me Dick And Jane the plot for you (much the way writer Marc Lawrence likes to do):
Three weeks after her heroism in the the first film's beauty pageant, FBI agent Gracie Hart (Bullock) is simply too recognizable to do her job effectively. Reluctantly, she agrees to be the agency's new PR face, but it doesn't take long before our congenial cutey becomes Miss Conceited, annoying her crusty new partner, Agent Fuller (Regina King).
It's only when her pageant friends are kidnapped that Gracie chucks her fab new wardrobe to save the day.
Not the worst premise. There's potential for a nice buddy pic here. But in the hands of writer Lawrence, who doomed Bullock's Two Weeks Notice, it doesn't have a chance.
Original director Donald Petrie created an endearing guilty pleasure. TV newcomer John Pasquin, working from Lawrence's material, is just plain guilty. Bullock is forced to poke at Dolly Parton's boobs and to fake "female" problems by doubling over, repeatedly yelling the word "tampons."
Note to Lawrence: stop being such an over-eager stage mother, pushing your performers into yet more tired routines, thinking a big smile masks the strain.
Not even Julia has a smile that big.