Over the top and bordering camp, Sex and the City 2 takes place largely in Abu Dhabi, positioning these HBO-series characters in front of actual sexual conservatism. Each in different stages of their well preserved-and well heeled-lives, the "Fab Four's" dramadies continue for the audiences who love them. Trouble is the surrounding story and its supposedly fun sojourns are as embarrassing as granny panties. Ticket sales can't possibly reach the more than $400 million worldwide glitz of the first film (which is a comparative masterpiece), but diehard fans will still pack the house. After a little distance from the sequel and some SATC 2 retail therapy (advertised throughout), another SATC film will seem increasingly more likely.
The producers of the new Smith Jarrod (Jason Lewis) film invite his ex, Samantha (Kim Cattrall), to Abu Dhabi. Their hope is that she'll work the same PR magic for their "New Middle East" resort that she did for her younger lover. So the four head to the United Arab Emirates where an ongoing dialogue about what's best to share and what best kept secret brings their respective family and personal tensions into focus. The religious conservatism and political repression of the Middle Eastern cultures aren't tackled head on, instead what you see is a culture clash revolving around sex and (mostly Samantha's) desire to be upfront about it. What looks like comic ostentation in Manhattan is punishable by law in Abu Dhabi, and the Manhattanites who are mere tourists there have no idea how to function with that traditionalism. Meanwhile tradition is what Carrie is butting heads with in her marriage, a lifestyle she also approaches like a tourist.
While all the attire is couture, the film's got a mail-order-catalogue feel function to it and the pre-release reporting done by major outlets like the New York Times are helping this along. That I can watch Charlotte (a show stealing Kristin Davis) make cupcakes and know how much her Anthropologie apron costs is itself a testament to the applicability of product placement-and the fact that fans (of both Carrie's writing and the lifestyle she represents) are given voices in the story gives the film an even more concrete awareness of consumer and product. The theme of silence (imposed or chosen) is overwhelmed by the over-the-top costumes; do the ladies really have to bring that much thunder? It separates the clothes from the characters-so much better for marketing?
To be fair, it's far harder to show domestic intimacy and personal sacredness in a film than it is to parade the extravagant lifestyle that made the show a half-fact/half-fantasy sensation. Here, the modern fairy tale seems to dwindle, perhaps because the film's trying to talk about a reality (not a fantasy) and realities point to something inside of a package, not the wrapping, (pop-culture is necessarily interested in the wrapping). These ladies are still pop-workhorses though, and I'll gladly watch them flounder in more serio-comic battlefields on another day. Maybe, though, that next installment could be a little shorter.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Willie Garson, John Corbett, Liza Minnelli
Director/Screenwriter: Michael Patrick King
Producers: Michael Patrick King, John P. Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker and Darren Star
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: R for some strong sexual content and language.
Running time: 146 min.
Release date: May 27, 2010