'Sex and City 2.'
Rated: R. Running time: 2 hours, 26 minutes. 1.5 stars.
Ladies, grab those ridiculously high heels because "Sex and the City 2" is hitting theaters. As any devotee of this wildly successful HBO series knows, heels are a must for every occasion. But the real fashion show took place on the big screen, with enough bling and female bonding to please a die-hard "SATC" fan — and horrify just about everyone else.
The first "Sex and the City" film (2008) seemed to tie up loose ends for the beloved group of friends: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) finally got married, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and her husband (Evan Handler) have a family, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) made their family work, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) happily gave up on monogamy. Yet, the creators sensed that fans were hungry for more, so they made a sequel that loosens those ends just enough to squeeze in another movie — barely.
We rejoin the ladies in New York City for a first act that feels like an average installment of the TV show, with the fun, friendship, fashion and humor to go along with it. The extravaganza wedding for Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone), Carrie and Charlotte's gay best friends, and a movie premiere with Samantha's ex Smith (Jason Lewis) give us glamorous backdrops to visit with our old "friends" from the show.
We're even treated to guest appearances by Liza Minnelli (in a can't-look-away-it's-so-awful performance of Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies"), teen queen Miley Cyrus, and a hilarious peak at our leading ladies in the fashion nightmare that is 1986. Classic "SATC."
But writer-director-producer Michael Patrick King (the creative force behind the franchise) decided to freshen things up by sending the ladies on a lavish all-expenses paid vacation to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Strange choice, especially considering the country refused their request to film there because of the film's title (they ended up shooting in Morocco). Once the ladies arrive and spend a good chunk of time marveling at each and every luxury at their disposal (a $22,000-per-night suite, personal butlers, a fleet of cars), they are finally able to get down to the business at hand — complaining about their ridiculously privileged lives and, in Carrie's case, creating problems out of absolutely nothing.
What made the TV series (and, to some extent, the first film) so appealing to women (including this one) was the core friendship between the main characters. Sure, the clothes were stunning — sometimes in a bad way (particularly true in this film) — and the relationship drama was enticing, but the relatable way the women were drawn (I'm a Miranda if you're wondering) and the genuine friendship they shared is something rarely captured in any medium. Although they were able to breath some of this life back into this film's characters, you can't help but notice that they've changed from the kind of women you would want to sip a cosmo with, to the "Real Housewives of New York." But hey, people watch that, too.
We're treated to Carrie's signature narration as she struggles with settling in to a married life she thinks is losing its "sparkle." She does make some poignant observations about the different phases of a woman's life, especially for those who choose not to have children. Moms will appreciate the bad mother confession session between Miranda and Charlotte, and the hot-flash set will probably guffaw at Samantha's oversexed (at this point, uncomfortably inappropriate) experience with menopause.
But these small moments are far outweighed by the film's extended product placement sequences, hawking overpriced goods that no average "SATC" fan could ever afford. The contradictions grow even more unpleasant as they romp about Abu Dhabi indulging in the city's excess, while getting some stern reminders about the treatment of women in that part of the world. Trite attempts to navigate across these cultural divides only make it worse.
So, should you see it? If you're a "SATC" devotee, does it matter what this review says? It shouldn't. Getting to spend another 146 minutes (easily 25 minutes too many) with a group of actresses that feel like old friends will feel worth the price of admission. The rest of you non-"SATC" fans are off the hook for this poorly constructed, confection of a film. Unless, of course, your girlfriend makes you go.