I’d avoided the TV show Sex and the City successfully for some years. To pre-empt my writing the review for the new release of the film Sex and the City 2 I thought I should watch a couple of re-run shows, was given a low down on the back history of the characters, as well as watching the first film released in 2008 (I take this reviewing business seriously!) I must say, although I understood the show’s audience was women and some gay men, I was surprised by the nudity and frankness of the show towards sex and even male foibles. By contrast the first film is toned down, but thankfully has less of Sarah Jessica Parker’s first person narration as Carrie Bradshaw, a pretentious and cheesy New York self-help writer in search of the meaning of love and relationships. The first film is, I must confess rather good with some smart dialogue and a strong message about the strength and importance of friendship from one’s own gender. Both films are directed and written by Michael Patrick King and are co-produced by SJP, giving some continuity from the TV show.
I entered into the spirit of watching Sex and the City 2 with, I have to admit a degree of prejudice that I wasn’t going to like it. I was correct in my prejudice. The film begins with Carrie recalling how she met her friends, perhaps one of the films only highlights showing them then and now, replete with bad 80s styles reflecting their characters (something, I am told the TV show did not reveal). To keep the viewer in touch with the times, in order that they don’t become totally immersed in the films vacuous lack of depth, Mr Big reminds Carrie at times about how hard times are when he says to her he doesn’t want to go out as 100 points have been wiped off the stock market. Please, who is King trying to kid! It soon collapses into a big old mess starting with the uber-camp gay wedding with a jaw dropping tacky gay choir dressed up in matching white suits and swans gliding by an ornamental canal. If you thought this bad, it only gets worse with none other than Liza Minnelli playing herself singing, wait for it … Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’. I thought I’d fallen asleep after watching an old Fred Astaire movie and been caught up in some camp nightmare. I had to watch Cabaret the next night in order that this wasn’t my lasting memory of Liza Minnelli. The film proceeds to, believe it or not, go downhill from there on.
Carrie and co. then begin to question their relationships: Carrie is fearful that her relationship with her husband Mr. Big is going to become boring, Charlotte is threatened by the large breasted and pretty Irish nanny to her two screaming kids (check out one of the worse accents I’ve ever heard committed to the screen) and Miranda quits her high flying job. Family and settling down is perceived as a trap, in which caring mother Charlotte is more concerned with jam handprints on her Valentino skirt than anything else. Slutty cougar Samantha then treats her and her friends to a break in Abu Dhabi at the invitation of an Arabic prince and now that the film has fallen out of its comfort zone in New York the whole affair becomes an expensive and tacky looking mess. Here the films vacuous nature is given a perfect foil as it takes on the appearance of a bad rap video with lots of money thrown at it (don’t let the dazzling images of Blu-Ray detract you from this being a bad film). Cue the offensive and patronising dialogue towards their Arab hosts while at the same time trying to be touchy feely as Miranda reads from her guide book about Middle Eastern customs and culture. Being that we are now immersed in a rich consumerist Arab culture, the one-liners and crude comedy sight gags are now toned down even further than in the first film with the exception of a few lines from Samantha (“he’s the Lawrence of my labia” on seeing a designer stubbled stud on his horse). To top it all the ladies are starting to look too old to be playing these roles; mutton dressed as lamb has become more MILF in bling. As if the Minnelli scene wasn’t bad enough the girls, in a moment of sisterhood in a nightclub sing ‘I am Woman’, yet another cringingly embarrassing moment. Enter two other characters: an old flame of Carrie’s, Aidan and Samantha’s seducer, Richard Spirt (you heard right: Dick Spirt) whom she has an erotic encounter with on the beach, leading to her arrest and public humiliation – as if she could be humiliated. It soon descends into bad comedy farce in Abu Dhabi showing the new Middle East as not the land of the free that they can enjoy in New York and instead displays this deeply conservative society that is the Arabic world which, despite its money and consumerism and, of course it can’t resist showing that underneath their burqas, the Arabic women are wearing Christian Lacroix.
Flailing about for direction, the film smacks of desperation by throwing in cameos by the likes of Minnelli, Miley Cyrus and Penelope Cruz to liven things up. That other star of the TV show, Carrie’s apartment also makes a cameo appearance in a piece of sledgehammer symbolism. For any well meaning fan of the show, they should feel cheated by this bore that stinks of exploiting the success of the show and the first film, both of which even a none S&C fan can see why they were both successes. Here’s hoping there won’t be a further sequel.