A movie that does nothing but push its target audience’s pleasure buttons is destined to be an abomination, a camp classic or both. The minds behind Sex and the City 2 have taken the same approach to their sequel as the makers of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: If you liked everything that was pure pandering in the first movie, you’re gonna love this one. While Michael Bay served his base with action porn and Megan Fox in short shorts, Sex and the City 2 writer-director Michael Patrick King offers luxury-hotel porn and an entire Australian football team in Speedos. Ladies, gents, pick your poison.
Maybe that’s unfair, since SATC 2 makes fitful attempts to descend from its sugar high and be about Real Stuff. We are still sort of following the relationship problems of four New York fashionistas. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) worries her marriage to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is getting stale; Samantha (Kim Cattrall) fights menopause with a suitcase of pharmaceuticals; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is sick of her high-pressure job; and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) fears her husband is attracted to her kids’ hot nanny.
However, in accordance with the laws of all bad "SATC" episodes, at least two of these problems must dissolve into mere pretexts for comic set pieces, and Carrie’s problem must receive the most screen time. Which is unfortunate, because our wisp of a heroine just keeps getting less likeable.
King seems to know this: He’s scripted a scene in which Carrie, on vacation in the Middle East, opens the New Yorker to find a review of her latest book accompanied by a caricature of the author with her mouth firmly taped. Carrie takes this as evidence of the propensity of men the world over to want to shut women up, whether with purdah or nasty reviews; her friends agree.
The gesture toward feminism is appreciated, but here’s the thing, Carrie. It’s not just frowning Arab patriarchs and sniffy male critics (like the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, who panned the first SATC movie) who want to shut you up. Here’s why:
You try way too hard to be adorable, when you’re really kind of mean.
Your all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi with your friends sets a new low for cheesy, retro depictions of the Middle East as a magical land out of the Arabian Nights, complete with servants who appear at a finger snap. Too bad about those repressive Muslims, or it’d be perfect, huh?
You’re moved by the plight of your Indian butler, who can only afford to see his wife every few months ... because that reminds you of your issues with your fabulously rich husband, who has admitted he doesn’t want to see you every day.
You mention flying coach the way most of us might mention contracting E. coli.You and your friends are responsible for some of the worst puns heard in a film this year.
Yes, Sex and the City movies are escapism, set in a Never-Never Land where the recession can be dismissed as “this bullshit economy.” But, in one scene where Charlotte and Miranda compare notes on the travails of motherhood, the sequel briefly reminds us how touching — and raw — the TV show could be.
Until, that is, the two ladies raise their glasses to all the moms who can’t afford the full-time help they enjoy. Offering the ordinary viewer some fun is one thing; condescending to her is another. There’s a place where aspirational entertainment becomes desperation, and this is it.