Sex and the City 2 * *

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Director: Michael Patrick King

Writer: Michael Patrick King

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Evan Handler, David Eigenberg, John Corbett

Running Length: 146 minutes

Synopsis:  It’s been another two years since freelance writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) has finally married the man of her dreams, John Preston aka “Mr Big” (Chris Noth). However, beneath the marital bliss lies some discontent – Carrie is afraid that the spark has gone out of their relationship, especially since Big seems more intent to stay home and watch TV then to go out and paint the town red. Her three best friends are also each having problems of her own: Samantha (Kim Cattrall) enters menopause and is trying her best to beat the clock with handfuls of vitamins and supplements; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is overworked and underappreciated in the law firm she works in; and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) finds her two children to be more than she can handle, and though her buxom nanny is a great help, she’s afraid that the nanny’s presence may cause Harry (Evan Handler) to stray. After a chance meeting with a sheik, the girls are whisked off to an all expenses paid, one-week vacation in Abu Dhabi, where Carrie chances upon old flame Aidan (John Corbett), and old emotions bubble once again to the surface. Will Carrie’s ever after be as happy as she envisaged it would be?

Review:  I’ll be the first to say that I am a big fan of the Sex and the City series, and even though the first movie had quite a few flaws, I was more than willing to let them slide and to go along for the ride. The huge box office success of the movie practically ensured the existence of this sequel, but one cannot help but wonder if it was a good idea. In the first movie, all four women had storylines of their own, which at least managed to justify the epic running length. In this second film, however, none of the women have very substantive storylines, and Samantha and Miranda are both reduced to being nothing but plot devices (just like all the men in the movie) – yet the movie is only 2 minutes shorter than its predecessor. It’s an incredibly bloated and indulgent movie, and there’s so little narrative progression and so much excess that it becomes overwhelming.

And “excess” is truly the keyword that permeates the entire movie. Sure, the out-of-reach fashions and accessories may be interesting, but this time round costume designer Patricia Fields seems to have been equipped with an ugly stick, as some of the fashions are truly gaudy and hideous. A purported $10 million wardrobe budget doesn’t manage to buy good taste, unfortunately. And yes, it’s supposed to be an escapist fantasy, but sometimes it stretches believability a little too much, and throughout the twelve-year lifespan of Sex and the City, it has never been this apparent.

And then there’s the sojourn to “Abu Dhabi” (actually Morocco, and it’s easy to see why Abu Dhabi declined to be part of this movie), which to me is the lowest point in the entire Sex and the City franchise. The name of the game after all is Sex and the City, and the characters do best when they are on their home ground of NYC, not a foreign country. This sequel makes the mistake of keeping the ladies on a foreign land for what seems like more than half the running length, in which all they do is go from tourist locale to another tourist locale. Was this meant to be a travelogue? The Mexico interlude in the first movie was somewhat acceptable because there was a fair bit of plot development, but the way the ladies behave in Abu Dhabi, particularly Samantha, crosses the line of comedy and enters into the realm of bad taste and crassness. It’s so belittling of the Muslim faith and the cultures and traditions of a foreign land that I felt mildly apologetic simply by sitting through it. Sex and the City is supposed to be fun, but it should not be at someone else’s expense.

There are still some brighter moments in the film, where what made the TV series so good comes to the forefront – an example would be the scene where Miranda and Charlotte commiserate about the difficulties of motherhood over Cosmopolitans, and for a moment one is transported back in the better days of the franchise. Unfortunately, too much of the movie is like the (rather painful) Liza Minelli performance of “Single Ladies” early on in the film – everyone looks older, and although their presence is somewhat appreciated, it eventually feels a little too desperate and sad, even for fans. Here’s hoping that Michael Patrick King finally realizes that Sex and the City’s shelf life is up, and to quit while he’s ahead, before the franchise makes a seamless transition to Golden Girls: The Movie.   

Rating:  * * (out of four stars)

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