- Rated R
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
s we say goodbye to yet another TV classic with this week’s series finale of “Lost,” it’s important to remember that no matter how attractive a feature film may seem, it usually ends up just tarnishing the show’s legacy. Take for instance, “Sex and the City,” a show beloved by both critics and fans during its six-season run on HBO, but whose much-anticipated jump to the big screen was drained of all the wit and charm that made it worthy of the Hollywood treatment in the first place. I guess no one learned their lesson, because “Sex and the City 2” is even worse than its predecessor – a shallow cash grab that suffers from a bloated runtime and lack of story.
The movie opens with the wedding of Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone), and it’s a garish celebration that is so gay, Liza Minnelli serves both as the officiant and the entertainment. (Her performance of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is just as embarrassing as it sounds.) Of course, the ladies are too busy with their own problems to even take notice. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) feels like she’s lost the sparkle in her marriage to Big (Chris Noth); Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is fighting the effects of menopause with an armory of hormone pills and creams; Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is going crazy at home with the kids; and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) quits her job due to an overbearing boss. So when Samantha is offered an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi as part of a business deal with a hotel tycoon, the foursome embarks on the exotic vacation of a lifetime.
The idea of sending four strong, sexually charged women to the Middle East may have seemed like a good way to address the backward gender politics of that region, but in tactlessly making fun of their culture, the movie borders on parody. There’s simply no way that an Arabic man working at a hotel resort would be openly gay, or that Samantha – while making a scene at a downtown market wearing booty shorts, waving condoms in the air, and thrusting her pelvis like a stripper – wouldn’t have been stoned to death by the radical conservatives surrounding her. Okay, we get it, Carrie and her gal pals represent female empowerment, but did director Michael Patrick King really need to hammer us over the head with it? Apparently so, as evidenced when the ladies take the stage at a nightclub to sing Helen Reddy's feminist anthem, "I Am Woman." Groan.
It’s a sequence that could easily be described as superfluous, but truth be told, the same could be said for much of the film. It takes nearly 30 minutes just for the real story to begin, and even then there’s not a whole lot there. Miranda’s work issues are resolved before she even leaves for Abu Dhabi, while Charlotte’s fear that Harry (Evan Handler) may be cheating on her with their new nanny (Alice Eve) is never taken seriously enough to be a real threat. Carrie’s marital woes is the only fully developed subplot of the bunch – one that takes an interesting turn when she runs into ex-flame Aidan (John Corbett) while on vacation – but it’s hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of her dilemma when she’s actually the catalyst for many of the couple’s arguments.
The shortage of engaging storylines is hardly the film’s biggest problem, however, as the show was often entertaining even when its characters were just sitting around a table talking. Instead, it’s the fact that King has neutered his leading ladies by turning them into idiotic stereotypes that is insulting to the strong characters they created on the series, as well as the millions of fans that tuned in each week to watch them. Perhaps next time (and there will be a next time unless some natural disaster kills off the female population), King would be smart to go back to the series’ roots and make a film that actually respects the source material, because “Sex and the City 2” stomps all over it.