by Richard von Busack
HAVING LEFT the realm of common sense and cultural relevance years ago, the Sex and the City franchise staggers to its grave as a sequel of phenomenal gaucheness. Sex and the City 2 has director/writer Michael Patrick King remolding the problems of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), who is allegedly a writer but really a shopper. Halfway through, the film junkets to Abu Dhabi to revel in more shopping and gold-lamé-clad slavelike servants and camels. We don’t have technology yet to make the gowns advertise themselves, so this 2-1/2-hour Barbie-play requires loads of costume changes.
We get Carrie’s disenchantment with her marriage with Mr. Big (the leaden Chris Noth). Brainless baba Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has two problem children and a big-breasted nanny with whom her husband might decide to dally. Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda has some job troubles (but enough clout that she can walk away from them). And the perennially horny Samantha (Kim Cattrall) fights the decline of her hormones.
Aside from macking on the splendors of the Emirate—seriously ghoulish cinematography makes everything look like a community college staging of Kismet—the film tries to stir up some relation to the classics. It Happened One Night’s hitchhiking scene is referenced, and then sabotaged by not adjusting the digital, so that the film clip flickers like an old silent movie. Regarding Claudette Colbert, Big tells Carrie that “she’s got nothing on you.”
Alas. Parker still has a fine frame, but she’s photographed to look ruthless and drawn—she looks as flinty as Captain Ahab. Since SATC 2 raises the issue of old movies, let’s say that Cattrall—the only member of the quartet big enough to hold the screen—gets a lot of mileage by following the Mae West path, with insinuation, sleekness and the ability to detonate a dreadful pun as if it had style.
These aging courtesans are now supposed to be freedom-fighting feminist avengers; Helen Reddy, Virginia Woolf and Susan Sontag get their props as Carrie and pals scandalize the burka-clad women of Abu Dhabi. The movie’s heart lies less with the named feminists, however, and more with the conspicuous consumption of Beyoncé. The diva’s “Single Ladies” is covered by Liza Minnelli and two Lizettes at the fancy yet stultifying gay wedding that both opens this lox and shoots a curare dart into it.