Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Sex and the City 2" is 2 much but knows its audience


Sex and the City 2 (2010) 
146 min., rated R.
Grade: B -


Once upon a time, there were four city girls, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, who liked to shop and sip down cocktails. In the inquisitive nature of Carrie Bradshaw pecking away on her laptop, no one can help but wonder, is the exuberant and extravagant "Sex and the City 2" a match for the show or its first film adaptation, like a scrunchie should match a pair of leg warmers? And why yes, Cinderella, the shoe fits ... for the most part, coming as close to the original HBO show's tartly funny, raunchy spirit and down-to-earth honesty as you'll find. 

This indefensible but fabulously entertaining sequel is going to please its large female fanbase, no matter what, as a reunion event for girlfriends to rush out to theaters in their stilettos and sneak in their Cosmopolitans. Anyone looking for a piece of grand summer escapism will get their bucks' worth for another behemoth 2 ½ hours (!) spent in the company of these four soul mates, even if stretches of it could've been liposuctioned. 

It's been two years later in the city and Carrie and Big (Chris Noth) are Mr. and Mrs. Married, about to lose their “sparkle” because the hubby wants to get take-out, take “2-day breaks” from each other, and watch old black-and-white movies on their new flat screen in bed. As for her BFFs, they're dealing with a hellish boss (Cynthia Nixon's Miranda); stressed raising two children (Kristin Davis's Charlotte); and fighting cougar menopause with the help of vitamins and facial creams (Kim Cattrall's Samantha). And what do these gal pals do to solve their middle-aged problems? Well, hello lover, they go on an all-expense-paid trip, of course, to Abu Dhabi (filmed in Morocco) and shake things up! Cue the "camel toe" and "Lawrence of My Labia" jokes. 

Like an indulgent vacation, "Sex and the City 2" is pure glitz and glamour, a big, broadly played wish-fulfillment fantasy about four obscenely rich, superficial but likable women that still has its pleasures, even if it's too much and too long. Though Parker is and will always be Carrie Bradshaw, the character begins as a more spoiled, whiny, self-involved shadow of her former self with “woe is me” syndrome. Played by Davis, Charlotte is constantly checking for cell-phone service in the desert (an annoyingly weathered cliché by now), but she has a sad, authentic individual moment in tears that makes up for making her look like a screechy caricature. She also shares a funny, tender chichat with Nixon about parenting over drinks. Luckily, Cattrall is hilariously uninhibited as ever, getting a lot more laugh-out-loud Samantha-isms and libidinous sex. 

Writer-director Michael Patrick King gives us more dramatic crises and comic episodes, like Carrie seeing her former love Aidan (John Corbett) in (where else?) Abu Dhabi and Charlotte dealing with a sexy Scottish nanny (Alice Eve) who doesn't wear a bra. We get a quick montage of the foursome back in the '80s Reagan era that's as campy as it is amusing. Liza Minnelli giving a good-sport cameo, as she officiates the ceremony and then sings Beyonce's “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and dances in black sequins at Stanford and Anthony's Big Fat Gay Wedding, is good fun. The Abu Dhabi half is long with uneven spots and much too muchness, but it's more sustained than the Mexico sequence of the first movie. 

An over-the-top escape sequence is more "Charlie's Angels," and the film is getting a lot of flak for offending the Middle East and for all the conspicuous consumption in a bad economic time, but that's only if you'll be taking a "Sex and the City" movie as seriously as real life. Believe it or not, those burka-clad women also enjoy fashion and read Suzanne Sommers even if they're not from the city! In its final analysis: while not as good as some of the funnier episodes in the series or its 2008 big-screen predecessor, there's plenty here for "Sex and the City"-philes. 

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