2010 – 146mn – 15

Directed by Michael Patrick King. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth.

Review by Walter Nichols

IF you’re going out this weekend, prepare to see lots of women of all ages, probably four of them per group, in high heels and unusually trendy outfits, laughing, bantering and locking arms. You’ll see them mostly around the cinema, or afterwards somewhere trying to get something called a “cosmo”. That’s right: this week, Sex and the City 2 is out.

I’m the rare straight male who will admit to really, really liking Sex and the City, both the TV show and the first movie. They were clever, witty, relatable and well written. So it’s with much disappointment that I must report that the new film is a big letdown.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) fears her marriage to Big (Chris Noth) is losing its sparkle. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has just quit her job because of her new boss, an unabashed sexist. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is exhausted by her two young kids, and feels threatened by her sexy Irish nanny (Alice Eve). Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is fighting menopause with a whole array of hormones, vitamins, creams, and supplements. So when the opportunity comes up to take a glamorous trip, all expenses paid, to Abu Dhabi, the girls jump at it – unaware that the change of scenery is going to make things much worse before they get better…

The film opens with a big lavish wedding between the girls’ gay best friends. There are swans, and Liza Minnelli sings an extended version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies. It also has absolutely no bearing on the plot, and the gay friends never appear in the film again. The sequence is an ominous but telling sign. Sex and the City 2 is overlong, self-indulgent, and lazy. It’s unnecessary and it has nothing worthwhile to say. Worst of all, it has lost all the intelligence, irony, and feminist subversion that, until now, made Carrie & Co. worth watching. What we get instead is a gimmicky, predictable Carry On film for women, complete with lots of dreadful puns, a handful of cheesy male pin-ups, and a dash of mild racial stereotyping. It might take it too far to say the film is culturally insensitive, but it surely is clumsy. It portrays the Middle-East as hypocritical and sexist (which it may well be, although you know what they say about generalizing); but also as secretly being culturally taken over by America. The answer to their traditionalism is American consumerism – clothes, shoes, movies. That consumerism is here presented as a liberalizing and empowering force, clearly stated in the voice-over to be better than foreign traditionalism. It gets so bad there are points you wonder if Dick Cheney was hired to do a quick polish on the script before filming. The feminist slant fares no better, and gets trickled down to an idiotic form of girl power that makes the Spice Girls seem like Emmeline Pankhurst.

As the characters get over-simplified, so do their problems. As a result, with the exception of Kim Cattrall (who single-handedly brings all the laughs), they’re all slightly irritating. They feel like Smug and the City – wealthy, materialistic, and shallow. The climax of the film (this is no spoiler) revolves around whether they will make it to the airport on time to keep their first class tickets, avoiding the dreadful fate that is economy class! A big emotional plotline is resolved with the purchase of an expensive diamond, which makes all the bad stuff go away.

It doesn’t help that, for a franchise that lives and dies on its sense of style (famously “making” Manolo Blahnkis), the whole thing is incredibly tacky. The outfits are mostly horrendous, and you can’t help be aware that in real life these four women would look like desperately slutty egotists with absolutely no fashion taste. There are also several shots that make Sarah Jessica Parker look shockingly ugly – so much so that you wonder if the actually beautiful, charming actress was deliberately made up, lit, and shot that way to prove all her detractors right.

You know the characters so well you do, somehow, stay interested in them, even though there is only one properly good scene, between Miranda and Charlotte. Everything else is just fluff, like watching your favorite edgy comedian give up the fight and start playing the Catskill summer circuit. Here’s hoping the third film gets that bite back.

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars