Release Date:  March 24, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for sex-related humor)
Genre:   Comedy/Thriller
Run Time:    155 min.
Director:     John Pasquin
Actors:    Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Enrique Murciano, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Heather Burns, Dietrich Bader, Treat Williams

Home in New York after her successful, televised mission at the Miss United States pageant, FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is famous throughout the world.  But fame comes with a price.  It leads to Gracie’s breakup with her boyfriend, another FBI agent, and it prevents her from doing what she loves – undercover work.  So Gracie proposes that she parlay her newfound fame into publicity for the FBI.  With help from her trusty stylist, Joel (Dietrich Bader), Gracie becomes the “new face of the FBI.”  Gorgeous, smiling, well-dressed and just a little bit plastic, she travels the country doing talk shows and promos for her bestselling book.  The only downside to all this is that Gracie does not get along with her bodyguard, Sam Fuller (Regina King) – a female FBI agent who has almost lost her job due to “anger management” issues.

In the midst of a press conference, Gracie learns that Cheryl (Heather Burns), her close friend and winner of the Miss United States crown, has been kidnapped along with the pageant’s MC, Stan Fields (William Shatner).  Suddenly, she can no longer sit by and watch.  But the FBI wants this case handled by the experts.  Excuse me?  I don’t think so.  Gracie is jumping in with two feet – along with her stylist, her makeup artist, her hairdresser and her Chanel sunglasses.  Unfortunately, Agent Fuller is right behind her.

“Miss Congeniality” was a big hit in 2000, so it’s natural that Hollywood would want to follow up with this sequel.  The first film was a rather benign spoof of beauty pageants that was mostly appropriate for younger teens.  This one, however, has a lot of sexual content and violence, and is thus really only appropriate for adults.  TV director John Pasquin (“George Lopez”) shows his sitcom roots, using lots of sexual-style humor (“We need tampons!”) and extended scenes that center around drag queens in a gay, drag nightclub.  This will be hugely disappointing for parents of teen girls, and just one example of the increasing inappropriateness of PG-13 films – now the new rated R.

Bullock is one of the best actresses in Hollywood, capable of smoothly transitioning between comedy, drama and thrillers, and it’s always a joy to watch her onscreen.  In this role, she effectively transforms the insecure Gracie into a monster of superficiality, then takes her right back down to size.  She’s positively hilarious when she goes into disguise as an aged, Jewish mother who visits a nursing home.  King, another strong talent, almost steals the show with her dour-faced, angry agent role.  Even if they are in a drag club when it happens, you can’t help but sing along when she finally breaks into song and dance as Tina Turner, late in the film.

As the gay stylist, Bader is so believable that I was surprised to learn he is married and a father in real life.  Shatner and Burns, who have only small roles as the hapless victims, are silly and far-fetched.  But Enrique Murciano, as the dimwit but good-hearted FBI agent who accompanies the ladies on their missions, adds a nice touch.  It heightens the joke that he plays a regular role – as a very serious, competent FBI agent – on TV’s “Without a Trace.”  Same thing with Elisabeth Rohm, formerly of “Law & Order,” as Murciano’s cheating girlfriend – although she’s just window dressing here.