Film Review: Sex and the City 2

An echo of the series’ glory, but that won’t stop the fans. Costumes and one-liners take precedence over female bonding.

For a series predicated on fashion, singledom, and a particular optimism and profligacy that seem so distant in a recession, Sex and the City sure has lasted a long time. It’s been 12 years since the first “Sex and the City” episode aired and two years since the movie reunited audiences with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall). While all the pieces are in place for the sequel—storylines that follow the (mostly) paired-off girls, silly banter and outrageous outfits—something is missing. The “sparkle.”

The movie hits its first misstep when the women attend the wedding of their pals Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone). The actors are given an unending succession of jokes to recite, and it sounds just like that—performers parroting lines that sound foreign coming out of their characters’ mouths. It’s not genuine, and even Liza Minnelli singing “Single Ladies” can’t save it.

It turns out that our heroine, Carrie, also feels she has lost the “sparkle.” Two years into her marriage with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), he’s settled down to watch television on her designer couch, while she wants him to go out to premieres and dinners. He proposes that they spend two days apart every week, during which they can “do their own thing,” and Carrie worries about this for the rest of the film. Rather conveniently, the movie then shifts locations to Abu Dhabi, which allows writer and director Michael Patrick King to delay resolution of this problem, and introduce someone else into the mix. Carrie’s ex, Aidan (John Corbett), shows up out of nowhere while she is shopping in a souk, and proves a tempting reminder of her former life.

King treads in treacherous waters when he takes the women to Abu Dhabi, and his jokes about veiling, showing too much cleavage and “burqinis” walk right up to the line of cultural sensitivity. The scenes were filmed in Morocco—Abu Dhabi wouldn’t allow the production to shoot there—and the jokes sometimes come off more as ugly American and less as feminist freedom cry. More importantly, why take the women on vacation when audiences are so much more interested in seeing them in a cosmopolitan location like New York City?

Despite the movie’s shortfalls, most fans will leave the theatre only a twinge disappointed. One of the series’ great successes was the ability to make you feel like you were one of the quartet—evidenced by the popularity of t-shirts saying “I’m a Carrie.” The sense of participation in the characters’ lives hasn’t gone away. In an echo of the series’ better moments, Miranda gets Charlotte to admit (over cosmos, naturally) that she finds being a mother difficult, even intolerable. Seeing these normally composed characters become vulnerable is a rewarding experience for those who have followed them all these years. What’s more, it’s a continuation of the series’ understanding that discussing travails bonded the women to one another, not to the men they were seeing. Unfortunately, the movie has buried these moments beneath a mountain of costume changes and a thin plot better resolved in a half-hour episode than two-and-a-half hours. I miss you, “Sex and the City”—the series.