Status: In theaters (opened 5/27/10)
Directed By: Michael Patrick King
Written By: Michael Patrick King
Cinematographer: John Thomas
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth
Sometime in the middle of the first act of Sex and the City 2—which is to say that it’s well beyond the point where it’s already been made abundantly clear that this movie is terrible—we’re introduced to a nanny character named Erin (Alice Eve). Her schtick is that she’s young and beautiful and has large breasts, and doesn’t wear a bra. This causes strife for Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who relies on Erin’s help in raising her children, but worries about the effect the nanny’s ever-present and ever-bouncing breasts may have on her husband Harry (Evan Handler). The nanny is Irish, which explains why she must be named Erin, and she’s introduced with generic jig music, and then proceeds to speak with a caricature of an accent. This introduction is punctuated with a non-joke from Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), who responds to a comment from one of her friends that there should be a law against such carefree bralessness with, “Yeah, a Jude Law!” (If you get this joke, or understand what about it is supposed to be funny, please share.) And then the situation comes to a head when Charlotte witnesses her husband and the nanny giving the children a bath, and we get the slow-mo shot of one of the children splashing water in just the right direction, with the necessary slow-mo mouth-agape reaction from Charlotte, as the nanny Erin’s white t-shirt is drenched. Like everything else in this movie, this is painfully slow to be set up—good thing they went to such lengths to repeatedly remark on the fact that she doesn’t wear a bra—and embarrassingly lacking in its payoff. That’s right: Sex and the City 2 is so bad, it couldn’t even hold my interest by resorting to gratuitous tit-shots.
This comes after an opening gay wedding scene that may make you dizzy from its propensity to elicit eye-rolling. Even looking past the all-too-easy, issue-of-the-day topicality of it, the writing is painfully bad. The two gay characters from the show are thrown together as an excuse to make endless jokes and sophomoric points about the issue at hand, despite the fact that they never had anything at all like a romantic relationship when we’ve seen them previously (a fact which is dismissed out of hand with some cliche about opposites attracting). Things get worse—much, much worse—when the officiant of the ceremony is presented: Liza Minnelli, playing herself. And then the 64-year-old former diva leads off the reception with a rendition of “Single Ladies” (yes, that song), while sporting an outfit that’s dangerously close to the one worn by Beyoncé in her video—and also dangerously close to revealing way more 64-year-old crotch than anybody could possibly want to see. It’s for moments like this that the term douchechills was coined.
And this is all just the exposition. The bulk of the movie—and with a running time somewhere around two and a half hours, there’s a lot of bulk—takes place in Abu Dhabi. This is probably the largest and most central miscalculation in the whole endeavor: while the 4 women are of course present here, the all-important 5th character of Sex and the City—the City—is all but completely eschewed. So then the movie is a horribly benign attempt at a fish-out-of-water tale; getting them to the UAE in the first place is a stretch, what happens once they’re there even more so. It all leads to a climax that exhibits the worst kind of cultural chauvinism. Without giving away the whole painfully contrived thing, let’s just say that the implication is that what women everywhere really want is to be obsessed with fashion like Carrie is, even if they have to do so underneath their burkas. In a movie that had me groaning and rolling my eyes throughout, I found this sequence to be the most disgustingly distasteful and hacky.
In this movie there was a chance for writer-director Michael Patrick King to explore new territory, to deal with these characters as they age and move into a different phase of life. It’s painfully clear, however, that he has no ideas for what to do with them anymore. Now that 3 of the 4 women are happily married, and the fourth firmly committed (as she’s always been) to the single life, there aren’t many new relationship issues for them to deal with. That doesn’t stop King from going to the same old well that’s been tapped many times, however—somehow, for some reason, Carrie’s ex-boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett) shows up in the middle of the desert to make a half-assed, token effort at tempting her into infidelity, even though it’s abundantly clear that both of them are quite happy in their respective marriages. There is one—and only one—scene that begins to approach something resembling an actual human conversation, involving Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte attempting to discuss the pratfalls of child rearing, and the importance of balancing their personal lives with their roles as mothers. Like the rest of the film, though, even this scene is encumbered by an unwillingness to ask to be taken seriously; instead it resorts to cheap attempts at comedy by having the characters behave like drunken teenage girls while reciting their dialogue as if it’s just getting in the way.
The writing gets even worse, though. I’ve always thought that Sex and the City‘s style of punny humor slanted more towards the clever than the cheesy, but here again it seems like King is completely out of ideas. An example: Samantha (Kim Cattrall), upon meeting a guy in the desert, swoons: “Lawrence of my labia!” And after about a dozen failed attempts, I’m giving up on trying to think of an appropriate sentence to put here, because a line like that really can’t be followed.
I was unapologetically a fan of the Sex and the City HBO series, and actually really enjoyed the first movie—which also brought the ladies out of the City, and dragged a bit as a result, but at least it remembered to return them to their element for its resolution. If the prior film was a shameless money-grab, at least it had the fact that it provided a sense of closure to the characters’ stories as a defense. Such is not the case with the sequel, which has pretty much no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’m sure this hasn’t stopped plenty of middle-aged women from going to see it (though apparently not enough of them for the movie to turn a profit). Maybe it’s because, among all of its other faults, Sex and the City 2 actually appears to go out of its way to make these aging characters look even older than they are, which I can only assume all but completely removes the desire for such audience members to live vicariously through them. The appeal of this movie seems to me to be completely non-existent, which is what I wish I could say for the film itself as well.