The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Sex in the City 2

Let me begin this review by saying that I, an adult male, enjoyed the first Sex and the City movie, just as I enjoyed the TV show on the dozen or so occasions that I saw it. I say this because I know there is a hardcore fan base for the franchise, and some members of that fan base believe that any critic who isn't among their ranks has no business reviewing the sequel. What I believe, strongly, is that if a movie adaptation is good, it can pull anybody in, regardless of whether or not they have a previously-established devotion to the property in question. Sex and the City 2 not only fails on this count, but I think it might also prove to be a massive disappointment to the faithful.

Here's the set-up: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is now married to Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but their lifestyle preferences are not compatible. She wants to continue going out to big, glamorous events, whereas he wants to stay home, eat takeout, and curl up in front of the television. Charlotte (Kristen Davis) is feeling overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, and worries further that her husband may be tempted by their hot new nanny (Alice Eve), who has a penchant for going bra-less. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is having work troubles, suspecting that the boss is discriminating against her because she is a woman. And Samantha (Kim Catrall)...well, she's pretty much as horny as ever.

Sensing her friends' ennui, Samantha invites them all along on a work trip to Abu Dhabi, where they are put up in accommodations that go beyond first class. The idea is for them to get away and have a little old school fun. (Of course, the fact that America is in the grip of a devastating recession makes it difficult for the movie to celebrate rampant consumerism unless it moves the action somewhere else.) In one of the great examples of movie coincidence – i.e. manipulative storytelling – Carrie travels thousands of miles from home and runs into old flame Aiden (John Corbett). Artificial romantic complications ensue.

Sex and the City 2 was okay for the first hour. There are amusing cameos from Liza Minelli and Miley Cyrus, and the characters' individual subplots seemed to have potential to develop in very interesting ways. But then the ladies reach Abu Dhabi and the film gets very bad, very quickly. At its most basic level, the decision to transfer so much of the action to another country was wrongheaded. This has always been a story about four cosmopolitan women who live and breathe New York City. The Big Apple is a huge part of who they are. We do not want to see these fish out of water; we want to see them in water. By dropping them into the Middle East, writer/director Michael Patrick King apparently sees the chance to comment on the way women there are repressed. Carrie and crew encounter a lot of females in burkas, and Samantha repeatedly defies convention with her outrageous behavior. It becomes the kind of one-joke premise that wears out its welcome quickly, makes no substantive point about that society's treatment of women, and seems mismatched for these characters.

An equally big problem is that Sex and the City 2 largely ignores the formula that made it so successful. The show was about female sexuality; it was really the first show to take that subject on and treat it in a mature, truthful, funny way. Women in the audience could relate to it, while men could learn something from it. This movie sequel has surprisingly little in the way of sex, and the frankness of the material has been greatly watered down. When Samantha meets a love interest in the middle of the desert, she dubs him “Lawrence of My Labia.” Yes, reciting the titles of porn knockoffs is about as edgy as the humor gets.

I really missed the down-to-earth quality that the show – and, to some degree, the first movie – had. It was a program unafraid to deal with sexual issues that everyone knew about, and few talked about. There was a bravery to it, in that it reminded us that women can enjoy and obsess about sex just as much as men. Female sexuality was treated as a valid subject, with the humor springing from its smartly observant nature. Sex and the City 2 is just dumb, offering us a lot of lame, contrived comic situations that provide no enlightenment about sex. What's the point then?

Maybe some fans won't care. Maybe just seeing Carrie and the girls again will be enough. But put it to the test. If you absolutely must see this film, go back and watch your five favorite episodes of the TV program. (Both options will take 2.5 hours.) After you've done that, ask yourself this: was the movie even one-quarter as good? I'm betting the answer will be no. These characters had a great run, but based on this sorry sequel, there's nothing interesting left to do with them.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Well, at least the Blu-Ray comes with bonus features that are more amusing than the film itself. There is an audio commentary from director Michael Patrick King, who also sits down for "So Much Can Happen in Two Years," a 30-minute one-on-one interview with star Sarah Jessica Parker. Fittingly, the talk is superficial, with topics ranging from which dresses they liked best to which outfits the actresses looked most beautiful in. I mean, this obviously isn't my cup of tea, but to SATC fans, it'll probably be gold.

"Styling Sex and the City 2" presents costume designer Patricia Field elaborating on the process that went into picking outfits for the characters. Once they get to Abu Dhabi, Field chose to give Miranda a look right out of A Passage to India, while Charlotte was Cleopatra-inspired.

"Marry Me Liza!" is actually a fun little feature that looks at the lavish gay wedding in the picture's first act. Liza Minelli is interviewed, and we hear about weeks of rehearsal that went into her musical number, as well as the massive set built for the scene.

"Revisiting the 80's" is a short bit detailing a brief flashback in which we see the characters in their 1980's garb. The filmmakers had to decide what the women would have been like back then (i.e. Carrie had the Flashdance look, while Samantha was a Madonna wannabe).

"The Men of Sex and the City" is just what it sounds like - a chance to focus on the male characters and to dissect their importance to the whole SATC universe.

Finally, there's "Behind the Scenes with Alicia Keys," which follows the immensely talented Grammy winner into the studio as she records a song for the soundtrack. Her tune, a version of the Blondie hit "Rapture," is admittedly catchy.

A digital copy is also included in the DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

Sex and the City 2 is rated R for some strong sexual content and language. The running time is 2 hours and 26 (overlong) minutes.