By Michael Avila
Special to DNAinfo
MANHATTAN — Even diehard “Sex and the City” fans will have a tough time defending the second movie. “Sex and the City 2” is a bloated, self-indulgent representation of a once-vital franchise that is now showing its age even more than its four stars.
The sequel is set two years after the events of the first “Sex and the City” movie, which ended with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) finally marrying her be-all end-all — Mr. Big (Chris Noth). Carrie is getting cabin fever because Big would rather stay inside their lavish Manhattan apartment, watching old movies on the couch, than go clubbing around town.
Charlotte (Kristen Davis) finally has the family she always wanted, but her two kids are driving her bonkers. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is miserable at her law firm job, while Samantha (Kim Cattrall) remains the group’s predatory animal, always on the prowl for younger men.
The film opens with the wedding of Stanford and Anthony (Willie Garson and Mario Cantone), which is predictably over-the-top and a virtual spoof of gay lifestyle. Their marriage comes off as just a flimsy excuse to kick off the film in glam style.
The movie’s threadbare script is exposed early on, when Samantha explains why she brought her dog to the nuptials: “It’s a gay wedding. What’s one more bitch with an attitude?”
Unfortunately, the dialog gets worse, much worse.
Writer-director Michael Patrick King’s screenplay falls woefully short of the TV series’ trademark biting and observant humor. What made the show so memorable was that the characters, despite their outlandish clothes and behavior, still came across as real. In this film, they are caricatures.
The contrived domestic drama that is supposed to paint Carrie, one of pop culture’s great self-reliant female characters, as a woman working to keep her marriage in the eternal honeymoon stage, instead makes her out to be some kind of ungrateful, past-her-prime “Real Housewife of the Upper East Side.”
Carrie and Samantha fare the worst of the four main characters. Their dialogue seems forced and false. The one-liners that Cattrall used to deliver with exquisite timing fall flat as day-old soda here.
The usually buttoned-down Miranda is the most palatable character; Nixon seems to be having the most fun of the four actresses throughout.
Among its many offenses, this 146-minute exercise in tedium somehow manages to shun its Manhattan roots while simultaneously giving the proverbial finger to Middle Eastern culture.
It’s shocking how little attention the movie pays to the city with which these characters are so closely linked. Where are the scenes at the impossible-to-get-a-reservation-at restaurants? Did no one think to call Graydon Carter and ask him about shooting at The Waverly Inn or Monkey Bar?
One would think moving the quartet out of their comfort zone of New York City to another plush locale would be the jolt needed to kick start the movie. Instead an Abu Dhabi detour turns into an hour-plus long test of the audience's endurance for quips, overdone fashion and ethnic stereotyping.
The film badly mishandles a message of female empowerment when the leading ladies comment on the burkas worn by women in that region. Instead of feminist commentary, it comes off as condescending and belittling. Along with its portrayal of Arab men, it’s a safe bet to say this film probably won’t set box office records in Abu Dhabi.
However, it’s not all bad in the Middle East. The ladies’ Karaoke rendition of “I Am Woman” is a nice reminder of the fun these characters used to have. That kind of escapism is ultimately, what so many people expect from “Sex and the City.” The girls talk out their problems over Cosmos, quiche and couture fashion. Sadly, there is not enough of it this time around.
The problem is, these characters are older, and it almost seems like they are in denial. Time to start acting your ages, ladies.
“Sex and the City 2” is on track to do big business, but creatively this brand is no longer in vogue. If there was any justice in the world, Heidi Klum would step in and tell Sarah Jessica Parker that her and her friends are no longer in fashion, ‘they’re out.’