The once-fab foursome of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte have gone from confident and independent thirtysomething women to neurotic, self-indulgent middle-aged shrews in “Sex and the City 2.” Couldn’t they just go out on a high note? In the end, the joke’s on us because the film favors glitz over substance.
As a devout “Sex and the City” fan, I feel like a heretic saying this. But here goes: I feel badly for Big (a dashing, as always, Chris Noth). My sympathies also extend to the other men caught up in the world of “Sex.”
Because the once-fab foursome of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte have gone from confident and independent thirtysomething women to neurotic, self-indulgent middle-aged shrews in “Sex and the City 2.” Couldn’t they just go out on a high note? The first film raked in more than $400 million. With its built-in audience, the sequel will undoubtedly do the same no matter the reviews.
At least the first “Sex” movie had storylines (infidelity, infertility, etc.) that were true to the characters. But Michael Patrick King – writer, director, producer – is having none of that in perpetuating the image of American women as sex-starved horn dogs ignorant and dismissive of Middle East culture.
There’s a fine line between challenging the status quo of a society that oppresses women and the all-out assault that King launches for laughs. Just wait until you see Samantha have her way with a hookah.
King’s idea of humor is full-on package shots of chiseled men in Speedos, and camel toes, caused by – what else? – a camel. You might laugh, but in the end the joke’s on us because the film favors glitz over substance. It’s as if the story was developed to showcase the designer clothes, shoes, props and sets. After all, famed costumer Patricia Fields’ wardrobe budget alone was $10 million.
King’s sequel is missing the smart and honest observations – and some well-placed bawdiness and R-rated fun – that made the TV show great over its six-year run. The characters felt like friends, especially early on, before the whole thing went viral.
All that’s left for the movie sequel is a big-screen orgy of excess with vintage dresses from Valentino, Chanel and Dior. The gals tool around Abu Dhabi in four sleek $400,000 Maybach sedans; Carrie’s enormous shoe closet overflows with Manolos and Louboutins; Big sports an antique Rolex. The list is endless.
While this decadence is intended to be escapism, the extravagance does nothing more than reinforce how pretentious they’ve all become. Especially when Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) – in voiceover, of course – explains she couldn’t sell her apartment because the timing (read: economy) wasn’t right.
“Sex and the City 2” picks up two years after where the first movie left off. Sure the country is in recession, but the film thumbs its nose at your money woes. Says Kim Cattrall’s Samantha: “It’s been two years of bad business and this B.S. economy. We are going someplace rich.”
That place is Abu Dhabi. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it has to do with Samantha’s PR firm, and the trip turns into a girls’ getaway from the troubled lives they lead in their tony Manhattan existence.
Carrie fears she and Big are turning into an old married couple. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is stressed out by her jerky boss and struggles to balance work and family. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) beats herself up because she’s not the perfect mother. Then there’s Samantha, battling menopause every step of the way.
Cattrall, fresh off an acclaimed turn in “The Ghost Writer,” puts on a joke of a performance. She was always the queen of innuendo and double entendre – and we loved her for it – but King reduces her to a caricature, calling the hot Danish architect (Max Ryan) she meets in the desert the “Lawrence of my labia.”
Adopting Kristen Stewart’s perpetual pout from “Twilight,” Parker is the biggest disappointment. It’s understandable for a woman to mourn her glamorous single life, but she comes off as an annoying spoiled brat. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with her, and this time I despise her. She got the man of her dreams. She got the address. She got the clothes. She got the job. What is there to whine about or pine for? Grow up and stop self-sabotaging.
The one moment of authenticity in King’s script is Charlotte and Miranda’s frank discussion about the challenges of motherhood. That scene is a million miles from the ornate gay wedding – with swans, a men’s choir and Liza Minnelli – that opens the film. The downward spiral starts there, continues with Minnelli performing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and doesn’t stop until 146 minutes later.
There is much flash and dazzle to look at, but in the end, this “Sex” has lost its appeal.
(R for some strong sexual content and language.) Cast includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon. 1 star out of 4.
Patriot Ledger writer Dana Barbuto is at firstname.lastname@example.org.