In Sex and the City 2, a group of elderly New York hookers travels to the shifting sands of the Middle East where they encounter a hideous mummy who ... oh, no, wait. That’s just Sarah Jessica Parker. Never mind.
Allow me to start again. ... Following a successful run on HBO and in syndication, the sitcom “Sex and the City” tried its hand at a feature film in 2008. That film became a runaway summer smash, ensuring a sequel. Rabid fans, no doubt, will be ecstatic. If there’s one thing Sex and the City 2 delivers, it’s fan service. Tons and tons of fan service.
The film gives longtime worshippers exactly what I’m assuming they want. There’s a nonstop parade of often ridiculous fashions, there’s a surprise wedding, characters (both male and female) call each other “bitch” on a regular basis, many cocktails are consumed, there are several shopping sequences, Liza Minnelli drops by to sing “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” It’s all a middle-aged woman who dreams of being a young gay man (and vice versa) could hope for. The only thing that’s missing to surround all these shenanigans is an actual movie.
Sex and the City 2 is less of a feature film and more a series of vaguely amusing anecdotes. First, there’s that big wedding. Aside from that appearance by La Liza, nothing of consequence actually happens. But the gaudy decoration is something to see. Then, there’s a lot of running around New York. (Shopping at Bergdorf’s, where the salesgirl is this total bitch.) Next, the ladies attend a lavish red carpet movie premiere where Samantha gets caught wearing the same dress as Miley Cyrus. (Could you just die?) After that, they all decide to go on a vacation to opulent Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. (FYI: Even moderate Muslims don’t cotton to slutty, drunken Western women.) At some point, the gals form a quartet to sing an entirely non-ironic version of “I Am Woman” at karaoke. Eventually, it ends in some wacky misunderstanding involving multiple insults to traditional Islamic law. At 146 minutes, it’s like six random episodes of the TV show stuck together in one commercial-free marathon—which, depending on your taste either sounds incredible or interminable.
At 146 minutes, it’s like six random episodes of the TV show stuck together in one commercial-free marathon—which, depending on your taste either sounds incredible or interminable.
The thing is, as a series, “Sex and the City” showed a modicum of reality and relatability in its characters. Chronicling the lives and loves of four professional career gals in fast-living Manhattan, “Sex and the City” became a turn-of-the-21st-century touchstone, addressed modern gender issues and taught successive generations of “Real Housewives” how to behave. But the various life stories of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) were well-exhausted over the course of six seasons. The only thing left of them are vague, wrinkly caricatures who drink, buy shoes and talk about sex.
Sure, each of the girls gets a tiny scrap of story to gnaw on here. Carrie is worried about becoming part of a fuddy-duddy old married couple. Miranda gets no respect from her new boss. Samantha is going through menopause. Charlotte hires a sexy young nanny and promptly worries her hubby might sleep with the girl. (Makes the diarrhea subplot of the first Sex and the City movie seem positively riveting.) Still, these are minor distractions to the business at hand: wasting 146 minutes of screen time. There are fashion shows, shopping montages, musical numbers and, on occasion, the film turns into an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (or MTV’s “Cribs,” if you prefer).
I realize there’s a certain amount of wish-fulfillment and escapism at play in the Sex and the City franchise, but this outrageous fantasy is like a Disney cartoon directed by Donald Trump. Fans who came to ogle designer shoes and expensive couches will have a field day. But those actually interested in things like character and plot will have to be satisfied with a listlessly remixed “greatest hits” album. Thrill as Carrie narrates another painfully obvious life lesson! Watch in amazement as Samantha tries to sleep with one more rich and stubbly man-stud! Gaze in wonder as Charlotte acts all uptight and anal! Again!
Abu Dhabi seems like a dazzling and exotic place to go, but the choice to set a Sex and the City movie in the Middle East is baffling. After reading the script, Abu Dhabi officials wouldn’t allow the film to shoot there. Producers had to settle for Morocco and some CGI. And it’s not too difficult to see why. The ladies act like a bunch of Ugly American boors here. King allows them to rant about Middle Eastern culture, repeatedly insult their hosts and get off scot-free in a climactic chase scene that Charlie Chaplin would have called unrealistic.
So is the film at all funny? If you find jokes about hot flashes amusing, possibly. Unfortunately, in the years since the show went off the air, writer-director-producer Michael Patrick King has developed a taste for awful puns. Most of the jokes in Sex and the City 2 feel like they should be accompanied by a rim-shot. It’s entirely possible the only reason the film is set in the Middle East is so that King can slip in a “Lawrence of My Labia” joke and several “camel toe” references. (The setup for the pun about the sexy nanny’s boobs is just too painful to detail.)
On a purely visual level, Sex and the City 2 is unadulterated eye candy. But even $22,000-a-night hotel suites and the glistening abs of an entire Australian soccer team can’t save this film from superficiality, crass behavior, dumb jokes and a total lack of drama.