M.Con Redux

Is it possible that the 'Miss Congeniality'sequel is deeper than it seems? Not really!

On the surface, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (or MC2:A+F, as the hip Filipino kids are calling it) seems like just another dumb comedy dumped by the studios in the slow season between the pretentious winter films that sit up and beg for Oscars and the slutty summer blockbusters that bleed and explode and tumesce all over the screen. But wait: What if that were not so? What if this were, in fact, a sly postmodern reference-fest that commented on the deteriorating state of modern American legal theory?

The surface story of MissCon:ArmFab (as they're calling it in the discos of Bishkek and Ashgabat) involves FBI agent Gracie Hart's attempt to recover from the fame she garnered in the first Miss Congeniality. In that film, slovenly and unlovely Ms. Hart was transformed into a beauty pageant queen using only a little makeup and the fact that she was played by Sandra Bullock.

Returning to her role as an ass-kicking enforcer of law, Gracie finds that she can't go on undercover missions anymore, because everyone wants her autograph. Thus, she is demoted or promoted or plot-wrangled into a new role: the face of the FBI. Touring the country with her book, the mysteriously titled Miss Congeniality (or M.Con as the hip-hop Turks of Tashkent like to call it), she does the round of talk shows and supermarket openings.

But has she lost herself in the process? Probably. Who cares? The important thing is that she must be teamed with another FBI agent who, in the fine tradition of buddy movies, is (a) violent, (b) difficult to get along with and (c) not the same race as Gracie. And this is where the film gets interesting. Well, not interesting so much as capable of being made interesting if you want to read a lot of meaning into it. See, the agent that Gracie is teamed with is a woman named Sam Fuller.

Yes, Sam Fuller! As most every nerdy film fan who only averts his eyes from the TV screen long enough to look stuff up on the Internet knows, Samuel Fuller is the name of the director who is often credited with founding the movement towards independent film in the United States. Best known for movies like Shock Corridor and The Big Red One (or BR1 as it's come to be known in the brothels of Kabul), Fuller began as a war corr ... oh, who cares. In any event, for no good reason, the screenwriters have named Gracie Hart's partner after Sam Fuller.

But wait! Maybe it is for a good reason! See, Gracie's last name is "Hart." And her partner's last name is "Fuller." Get it? Well, H.L.A. Hart was the leading proponent of positive law theory in the mid-20th century in the United States! And Lon Fuller was perhaps the leading proponent of natural law theory! Surely you've read the famous "Hart/Fuller debates" on the nature of legal interpretation?

Well, then, it just follows that the arguments that Gracie Hart and her partner, Sam Fuller, have throughout the course of this film will mirror those famed debates!

And in fact, Gracie Hart's big problem is that she has allowed stylists and yes-men to turn her into exactly the kind of prissy twit that she hated when she was a tough-talking FBI agent. She's become very unnatural, you see. Meanwhile, rambunctious Sam Fuller can't stop beating people up. She's a little too natural. So they must come to some sort of compromise agreement in order to rescue the kidnapped Miss USA.

Which is, essentially, the plot of this film. Miss USA is in trouble! That was the plot of the first film, but I guess screenwriter Marc Lawrence (best known for his work on Miss Congeniality) figured that when you've got a good thing going on, you don't want to be changing horses in midstream.

Anyway, while Hart and Fuller argue about how natural they should be and whether or not it's a good idea to punch people and other high-brow stuff like that, they find themselves, as in any good legal debate, performing as Tina Turner at a drag show and then wrestling underwater with some pirates.

Then, at some point, Stephen Tobolowsky appears, and then somebody says "I played Iago in Twelfth Night," which is weird, because Iago isn't a character in Twelfth Night. And then William Shatner does something, and then everyone is happy because good things have happened, or maybe they're happy because this movie is over and they can go home now and watch something inventive, like Fox News.

So should you go see Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (or Missy C as the neoconservative homosexual elite dog-groomers like to call it)? Well, the short answer is "no." The long answer is that there's a scene where Hart and Fuller open up to each other about their painful childhoods and stuff. That should set off some warning bells. The longer answer is that this is the last weekend of dog season, and starting next week, the summer blockbusters start to come out, so if you can hold out for just a few more days, you can go see something that will be, if not necessarily good, at least very, very expensive to make.

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