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Glitz devours substance in irksome “Sex and the City 2”

And you thought Liberace was flamboyant.

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”
~~Henry David Thoreau

In 2008, “Sex and the City” was a nice surprise to fans who were expecting a rehash of a TV show that ended exquisitely. The outrageous fashions were there, but they played understudy to the authentic problems of four women (OK, three) approaching their 40s: struggling marriages, men afraid of commitment, balancing careers and motherhood. All the things that made “Sex and the City” a sincere endeavor are absent from the farfetched,  annoying, unclever sequel. (Everyone saw this coming, but still.) The dew’s off the rose.

In case anyone had doubts that “Sex and the City 2” would rocket past “over-the-top” into “ridiculous,” the opening scenes ease them. Director Michael Patrick King presents us with a wedding so ostentatious — did I mention the swans? — that it’s appropriate the entertainment is Liza Minelli (sporting some fierce getaway sticks) bellowing out Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies.” Films that begin with such razzle-dazzle make me suspicious; the rest of “Sex and the City 2” succeeded in making me nauseous. If there’s no advertisement for the dangers of conspicuous consumption, this motion picture is it. The clothes are no longer clothes, they are circus costumes (SJP, we expect this from you, but what have you done to Kristin Davis?), and the jewelry is worse. There are Buckingham Palace chandeliers less ornate Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Miranda’s (Cynthia Nixon) earrings. Bold is one thing, but getups that swallow up the characters and the plot are another. By the ending, “Sex and the City 2” has devolved into the fashion show from Hell.

That’s enough ranting about the clothes, which fashionista fans probably j’adore*. There are some half-hearted storylines somewhere in the folds of those billowing M.C. Hammer pants Carrie (Parker) wears: Carrie and Big (Chris Noth, whose limited charm becomes grating fast) have settled into married life, and he’s become a couch potato. She’s convinced they’ve turned into a boring married couple although a) they’ve been married two years and b) their collective fortune totals more than the GNP of Guam. Charlotte (Davis) has discovered that kids are a lot less compliant in real life than they are on the covers of parenting magazines. Miranda, still married to Steve (David Eigenberg, always too nice and normal to belong), has a new boss (Ron White) who hates women. Samantha’s busy staving off menopause with remedies she lifted from Suzanne Somers. She’s on the road to tricking her body into thinking its years younger because a hot flash in the middle of some mattress dancing is not on her to-do list. This is what we get in the first 45 minutes of “Sex and the City 2,” and King, sensing this won’t last long, ships the girls off all-expenses-paid to Abu Dhabi. In the Middle East they do things like ride camels in the desert wearing platforms and sporting breast-baring tops in conservative Muslim company. (Samantha even glad-handles the Mr. Happy of a suitor in a restaurant.) What’s meant to come across as fish-out-of-water comedy translates into a disrespect for the country — which these women are guests in — and the culture. Flaunting their wealth in a place where women have to lift their burkas to eat French fries is disdainful.

The costumes and disrespect aside, isn’t there anything redeeming or at least remotely funny in this movie? Wrack my brain I did, and it produced a memory of the sole sincere, touching scene: Miranda and Charlotte, over drinks, discuss the difficulties of motherhood — Charlotte’s thought after considering Harry (Evan Handler) might cheat with the nanny is “I can’t lose the nanny!” — and give a salute to the women who do it without help. All the rest of the dialogue is hokey and punny, including an unforgivable play on Jude Law’s name. The girls’ karaoke sing-a-long to “I Am Woman” offers a sadly brief glimpse into the camaraderie, the chemistry that made the show and the original film such a rousing success. Before, the clothes mattered less than the friendship. Now, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are just a bunch of overprivileged fashion slaves.

Grade: D

*Technically it should be “ils adorent,” but I’m working a play on words here.

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21 Responses

  1. […] that I already wrote a review extolling my frustrations, I’ll keep this rant short. There are so many things wrong with […]

  2. It’s safe to say I will never watch this movie unless forced at gunpoint. Can’t be surprised that you despised it, knowing your taste 😉

  3. I haven’t seen the TV series, seen a bit of the movie at my mother’s behest (ugh), and, therefore, do not have any desire to see this. Thanks for confirming my fears.

    (Also, I don’t mean to be a horrible ‘ohlookhowwrongyouare!’ person, but I am currently studying for a French test, and I will point out to you, sir, that ‘j’adore’ means ‘I love’. Okay. So. Carry on)

    • Alas, I’m caught by the French Verb Conjugation Police. I was going for a play on words.

      • I’m sorry. I’m just really French-speaky right now.

        You can delete my comment and pretend it never happened if you want…

      • No, no — no offense taken. I was just joshing. If nobody ever corrects me, how will I learn?

        Plus, I suspect the French would have had the same reaction. 🙂

  4. Great review!
    With regard to your comment regarding the costuming, i’ve always known that there was a fine line between “sexy and circus” – guess they crossed the line in this one! Although as a long time fan of the show – I’d argue that both Carrie & Parker (for that matter) have long flirted with circus fashions.

  5. Reading this – and having it echoed by lady hatter’s reaction – makes me wonder one thing:

    What does Candece Bushnell think of what her once smart and honest creation has become?

    • @ Klaus — Yes, SJP long ago stopped dressing like a normal human being. My theory is she’s an alien from a planet much more fashion-forward than Earth.

      @ Mad Hatter — The funny thing is that I read the book and thought the show was much better because it created a very real bond among these women. The sequel to me feels more in line with the book, where the women care more about fashion than anything else.

  6. To be fair, the way women are treated in the Middle East deserves to make them look bad. I only wish there were hundreds of Kim Cattralls in Abu Dhabi.

    • I’m on the fence about this one. If they were trying to make that point, I’d probably go with it, but it just seems like like the movie’s approach is one of ignorance. “Sex in the City in Morocco… we mean Abu Dhabi” rather than “There is something seriously wrong with human rights in this country”.

      I’ll defend to the death decisions like showing Mohammad on South Park, but this just seems ignorant.

      • I haven’t seen the scene so I can’t say how it was intended. Maybe it was botched, or just used for slapstick.

        But the Mohammad South Park episode was outstanding.

      • Darren, you hit the proverbial nail on the head there. Somehow I don’t think the director meant to make any great statement; he just wanted to show the fearsome foursome wearing Couture that looked really good against a red sand background. When the offensiveness has a purpose, a la “South Park,” it’s good.

  7. Uh, you are breaking my heart, Meredith. I understand that people are not going to like this film. I understand that. I enjoyed the spectacle of it.

    • It broke my heart too. I loved the first movie, genuinely loved it. And then this. I couldn’t even take pleasure in the spectacle, I was so let down.

      • I understand your disappoint. I was the other way around. I didn’t like the first movie and I loved this movie. So weird.

  8. Didn’t see the first one. Not gona see this one. 8% on tomato meter last time I checked. I wonder if they’ll bother with another one?

  9. Can’t think of anything more painful than SATC 2. My fiancee is eagerly looking forward to it – can’t understand why, but she loved the first one. Then again she watches Neighbours and Home and Away every night religiously so what more can I expect. Suffice to say, I won’t be going to see this one – she still owes me a horror film for the last chick-flick I was dragged to watch – Marley and Me!

  10. Damn it. You break my heart, and I trust your judgment, and know that you were a fan of the show so you went in without prejudice. After reading your review I am feel whiplashed. This is EXACTLY what I thought the first film would be, and it turned out so good. I once again hoped it would end, but then when the sequel was being made, I knew I would have to see it, and this point I was hoping it would be something better than ghastly.

    They have done such a wonderful job in creating these women and showing as you pointed out the brilliant chemistry they all had, it’s very very sad that they ruined it all and had to end it on a shameful note.

    BOO! I’m a sad kitteh on this day.

    • @ Ronan — Lord I hope not. I hope the fans will be smart enough to let the series go. It’s way past its expiration date thanks to this movie!

      @ Heather — Maybe you’ll have a kinder eye for it than I did. I know several people who liked it … it just disappointed me because the original film set the bar so high and ended so perfectly. “Sex and the City 2” focuses mostly on Carrie’s problems, which aren’t as interesting or real as, say, Miranda or Charlotte’s issues, and that chemistry seems, barring the karaoke scene and a few others, to be gone.

  11. They need to make a THIRD one [insert groans here] to redeem themselves. 😉 But as you know, I quite liked this one. But they really need to stay in NY if there’s going to be a next one. And PLEASE more Jason Lewis.

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