Sex and the City 2
Movie Review: 'Sex and the City 2,' a bad trip to nowhere
"Sex and the City" is, was and always will be for the fans. The first movie, like the raunchy HBO series on which it was based, could be appreciated on its own hedonistic terms, but "Sex and the City 2" -- an enervated, crass and gruesomely caricatured trip to nowhere -- seems conceived primarily to find new and more cynical ways to abuse the loyalty of its audience.
That is evident from the first strained moments, as the movie picks up the story of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her friends Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) two years after the last film ended. Carrie, happily married to Mr. Big (Chris Noth), has been feathering their handsome Upper East Side nest, while the others navigate motherhood, careers and menopause.
As the story takes them, inexplicably, to a freebie junket in Abu Dhabi, the script visits one indignity after another upon "the girls," from Miranda's desperate whoops of fake glee to convince herself she's having fun to Samantha's compulsive penchant for dirty puns.
While the show and first movie managed to thread a tricky needle between the traditionally girly concerns of clothes, shoes and romance and a far more sober, clear-eyed view of female solidarity and autonomy, "Sex and the City 2" uses feminist arguments to preempt the criticism it so richly deserves.
Thus Carrie & Co. can run amok in Abu Dhabi, dressed like the offspring of Barnum & Bailey and Alexis Carrington, making jokes about burqas and, in Samantha's case, engaging in exhibitionistic displays that border on the psychotic, but to disapprove of their behavior is tantamount to punishing female desire -- or, in the film's preferred trope, "silencing their voice."
The more strenuously "Sex and the City 2" tries to become a parable of trans-national sisterhood, the more patronizing and self-important the movie becomes, and the more its protagonists come to resemble shrill female impersonators. When Carrie expresses disbelief that a woman in full abaya can still enjoy a french fry, the veiled woman in question would be forgiven for taking in Carrie's own insane get-up and wondering who's the more sartorially oppressed.
Casting aside the filmmakers' breathtaking cultural insensitivity, their astonishing tone-deaf ear for dialogue and pacing, and their demented, self-serving idea of female empowerment, the biggest sin of "Sex and the City 2" is its lack of beauty. It's garish when it should be sumptuous, tacky when it should be luxe, wafer-thin when it should be whip-smart and sophisticated.
This movie makes a mockery of the surface pleasures that the original series could always be counted on to provide. The fans most likely will still flock to "Sex and the City 2," but they may feel as if they're being punished for their devotion.
* R. At area theaters. Contains strong sexual content and profanity. 140 minutes.