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TV & Video Review: ‘Miss Congeniality’ and ‘Miss Congeniality 2’ (Double Feature) (Blu-ray)

Sandra Bullock in ‘Miss Congeniality 2’ (Supplied publicity photo)

Sandra Bullock never thought she’d win an Oscar because she’s had a career of mainstream crowd-pleasers (and a few bombs) ranging from romantic and somewhat physical comedies to thrillers and action flicks. She’s never pigeon-holed herself, which is commendable. Miss Congeniality was a charming hit that spawned the sequel Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.

In the initial film, Gracie Hart (Bullock) is an FBI agent that needs to recover her reputation after a bad sting operation. When they are alerted to a possible terrorist attack at the Miss United States beauty pageant, Gracie is the only agent available to go undercover – but not before a total makeover by pageant advisor Victor Melling (Michael Caine). Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) is the pageant director and she is determined not to let Gracie’s negative perception of the event and its contestants ruin the occasion.

In the sequel, Bullock reprises her role though her character is quite changed. Gracie has become the face of the FBI, promoted to media relations officer to take advantage of her popularity. When Sam Fuller (Regina King) is assigned to be her bodyguard, Gracie is confronted with the woman she used to be: angry and determined to do the job. The pair is sent to Las Vegas when the reigning Miss United States and Gracie’s friend Cheryl Frasier (Heather Burns) is kidnapped along with pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner). However, Gracie decides she doesn’t just want to be a pretty face anymore – she wants back in the field.

As with many ill-conceived attempts to capitalize on a successful turnout, the sequel was not nearly as captivating as the first film. Audience’s introduction to Gracie Hart was charismatic, funny and engaging as she struggled with her new persona, but eventually embraced the people around her by abandoning her preconceived notions. Also, Gracie’s relationship with Victor and her partner Agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) were interesting. Conversely, the second movie fails to replicate the likable personality and story that attracted people to Gracie, while her relationship with Sam is not nearly as magnetic.

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