With Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Christopher Noth. Directed by Michael Patrick King. Rated R for some strong sexual content and language. 146 minutes.
If, like this reviewer, you can’t tell Jimmy Choo from Thom McAn – knowing they both makes shoes isn’t enough – then SEX AND THE CITY 2 isn’t for you. This is the “girl’s night out” movie, where the special effects of a guy’s action film are translated into endless costume changes for its four female leads. This is a movie where satisfied customers will come out humming the clothes.
At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it’s seems odd how thin the story is. The four friends from the HBO series and 2008 movie are having their collective midlife crises. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is feeling stifled at her law office. Charlotte (Kristen Davis) is overwhelmed by motherhood and worrying that her husband (Evan Handler) is going to have a fling with the busty and braless nanny (Alice Eve). Samantha (Kim Catrall) is obsessed with reversing the aging process. And Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is wondering if her marriage to Big (Christopher Noth) is already at a dead end, with him preferring to stay home and watch TV rather than go out on the town.
All that takes up half the running time. Then, in a ridiculous plot contrivance, Samantha is to be flown to the emirate of Abu Dhabi to discuss doing publicity for a luxury hotel. She agrees only if she can bring her three girlfriends along. Each character gets to “grow” or learn something about themselves, they change clothes a lot, they sing “I Am Woman” in a karaoke bar, and Samantha nearly starts a riot flaunting her sexuality in the repressive Arab regime. And that’s it.
The film’s depiction of life in Abu Dhabi (actually shot in Morocco) is such a caricature that one eagerly awaits word that it’s created a diplomatic incident. Given the fanaticism in that part of the world, one can only hope that’s the worst that happens. In a brief nod to the real world, it’s revealed that Charlotte is traveling under her maiden name of York rather than her married name of Goldenblatt. Even in the “new Middle East” being peddled here, Jews are not welcome.
In the entire running time there’s exactly one scene that’s funny and honest and not filled with heavy-handed sex jokes, celebrity cameos or fashion statements. Well, maybe it fudges on the last. In this jewel of a scene, Charlotte and Miranda get drunk enough to be honest with each other about how they really feel about motherhood. It’s character-driven and revealing with a delicious payoff. If only the rest of the movie could capture the energy of this moment.
Instead we’re back to the clothes (much more important than the sex) and the shallow lifestyles of people who have much more money to spend than those of us in the audience do. That’s probably the key to its appeal and why, in spite of the reviews, “Sex And The City 2” will be a huge hit. Yet given the current state of the film industry, one really has to ask: if this was really an important movie, wouldn’t they have shot it in 3D?
Perhaps they’re saving that for “Sex and the City 3.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.