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May 27 2010
Queens Of The Desert: A Review Of Sex And The City 2 Comments (8)

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Florence of Arabia

I was one of the few who mostly liked the first Sex and the City movie. I was perplexed why it was so thoroughly panned by critics (even making some year's-worst lists)—it was a faithful extension of the show, albeit one with a couple of confounding plot points. I felt the parts that bugged me bugged me in a good way, a provocative way. Like sex, even the lamest orgasm is right on the money, right?

Challenging that notion, Sex and the City 2 is definitely a bit of a boner-killer.

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A woman who doesn't know her place...until she does 

I knew I was in trouble when director and writer Michael Patrick King stated he'd made this film in response to seeing the series' fans dressing up and partying in the aisles when seeing the first flick. He wanted to extend the party. A film made for that purpose was only ever going to be shallow; and a Sex and the City created strictly for the fun of it, all party instead of part party, part museum, part high-end store, part shrink session, was bound to wind up a caricature of itself.

SPOILERS AHEAD...

SATC2-07630 Case in point: The beginning of the film is largely given over to a lavish gay wedding ("It's not a gay wedding, it's a wedding," Carrie argues with Big, though this kind of interesting war of words is all too rare this time)—I'll let you guess who's tying the knot—characterized by a lavish production number: Liza Minnelli warbling "Single Ladies." If this delights you, my review might be the opposite of yours. But if this worries you, be afraid. As creative an idea as this was when they began shooting, it comes off as embarrassing and really dated now that people have moved on from this song and are instead doing Lady GaGa send-ups and making Justin Bieber cracks.

Gal_sex13 As for the meat of the film, this time around, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, sparkling as always) is settling uncomfortably into surprisingly boring married life with Big (Chris Noth). They have the perfect apartment but can't come to terms on which splashy events to attend—you know, the usual issues in any relationship. Two of the other women's issues for this installment are even more ridiculously one-dimensional—Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, seemingly coached to play big here) is miserable in her job thanks to a sexist boss who continually shushes her and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) worries that her nanny Molly's (Alice Eve) massive jugs might prove too much of a distraction for Harry (Evan Handler). At least Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has menopause to deal with (fittingly, since Cattrall is, remarkably, the same age Rue McCLanahan was at the beginning of The Golden Girls), a real issue handled in a mostly hilarious manner that most faithfully recalls the tone of the original series—one scene involving her thong and the Manhattan skyline is a classic.

In a two-and-a-half-hour film called Sex and the City (2!), there is shockingly little sex (thank God for Max Ryan's ass and Noah Mills's everything, though both are barely more than extras) and even less of the city, or at least of New York City. Instead, a potential job for Samantha leads to a trip to Abu Dhabi for all four. Will the Middle East and four sexually liberated women be a good mix? Don't worry, Samantha is reassured, this is the new Middle East.

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Trés shiek 

The women navigate Abu Dhabi (played here by Morocco), indulging in the obscene perks offered by Samantha's business suitor and buying shoes for $20. This is when The Secret happens, a plot twist King demanded reviewers not reveal. It's not much of a secret when Aidan (John Corbett) is viewable in the trailer, but let's just say that Dior is not the only thing Carrie J'adores while on foreign soil, leading to much anguish.

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Everything is so cheap in the marketplace, even sentiment

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The most innovative aspect of the film is its attempt to spank Islam for its poor treatment of women; this is unexpected in this forum and is handled in the cheesiest of ways, yet it does justify the Middle Eastern setting and at least had the potential to make the film something of an argument for modernity and against traditions that elevate misogyny into dogma.

I couldn't get past some things in this film that didn't seem to bother me or didn't exist as problems in earlier installments. For one thing, the fashions are more garish than ever, and seem utterly obnoxious draped on these tourists to the Middle East. For another, the men are barely in this film. Granted, it's about the ladies (as a painful karaoke session of "I Am Woman" underscores), but with a running time like this film's got, there should be plenty of time to let the men be characters instead of scenery. Then there is the atrosh music, about which the less said the better. And what about annoying things like how Smith's (Jason Lewis) movie has its poster shot—on location—days before the film premieres?

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The film could've used more heart (of the desert) 

All that said, even a bad Sex and the City—and this one is pretty bad even if it's still somehow incredibly easy to watch—is better than no Sex and the City. There are enjoyable moments and the actresses are always a joy to behold, even if Parker is the only one fully present. (Weirdly, Nixon and Davis still wind up with the film's very best scene.) As they age, I won't want to see them any less. But if their storylines continue to show more wear and tear than their ageless faces, this actually could get old.

And all of that said, too, I'm seeing it again Saturday with my mom and with José...please don't tell them I didn't like it! (At least I didn't didnt like it this much.)

   

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