When last we left perennial single Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), she had finally tied the knot with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and was ready to give wedded bliss a spin. Two years later and it turns out the bliss isn’t so blissful, as Mr. Big has gradually turned into Mr. Couch Potato while Carrie still wants the society party life she’s always had.
“Sex and the City” the show and the movie (more or less) got by with a mix of over-the-top comedy to wash down over-the-top melodrama that was more complex than it liked to let on. As much as it was about glamor, it was also about un-glamorizing dating and motherhood and womanhood in general without lessening it. It allowed for characters that cheated or lied (to themselves and others) or resented their children, but without judgment. That’s a difficult balancing act to pull. It pays great dividends if you succeed, but if you don’t you end up with protagonists that are really difficult to relate to or care for.
“Sex and the City 2” is about a lot, and I mean A LOT of different things much of which doesn’t go any anywhere. But at the center of it is Carrie trying to have her married cake and eat it too, and not liking the fact that she might not be able to. That’s a difficult road to hoe, so kudos to writer-director Michael Patrick King for sticking to his guns. On the other hand, it’s extremely petulant and makes it very easy not to care about anything Carrie complains about for much of the film.
There is some real and difficult truth to that; that when people get married it doesn’t necessarily mean they want the same things out of life. But “Sex and the City 2” isn’t about dealing with difficult truths. It’s about glamor, so no sooner is the problem brought up then Carrie and the girls are whisked off to Abu Dhabi.
Normally the series has balanced out this sort of problem with its ensemble, using the goings on in other characters’ lives to provide satisfactory drama while Carrie sorts herself out. But this time around the side stories really are side stories, brought up and then given little to no attention.
Charlotte (Kristen Davis) is beginning to realize that having children is just the beginning of motherhood and if the difficulties of child-rearing weren’t enough she’s worried that her young, hot nanny may be too much of a temptation for her husband (Evan Handler) to resist. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) finds herself on the opposite end, having to pass up on much of her motherly duties to focus on work in order to prove herself to a misogynistic boss while Kim Cattrall’s Samantha returns to being a punch-line as she struggles to stay oversexed while going through menopause.
Sending someone like Samantha, and “Sex and the City 2” to a land that still systemically discriminates against women isn’t a bad idea, but it takes so long for the film to do anything with that by the time it gets around to it, it’s hard to care. Which is the real problem of “Sex and the City 2.”
A long movie is fine in and of itself, as long as the filmmakers are using that length to develop the characters or the plot (or hopefully both). But it’s very easy to go too far and suddenly end up with a smorgasbord of a film that doesn’t know how to control itself. And when you spend five minutes showing your characters around their splendiferous hotel room, you’re verging on that second option.
“Sex and the City 2” is a lot of really extended set up and very brief, not entirely satisfying resolution. It takes more than an hour to get the girls to Abu Dhabi, where the film really starts, after sitting through a gay wedding that doesn’t need to be anywhere near as long as it is for what we get out of it. Though it’s almost worth it to see Liza Minnelli doing “Single Ladies.”
A lot of what has worked in the past is still present here. The puns and over-the-top situations come fast and furious (for some reason it’s still refreshing that the chickiest of chick-flicks can be as unremittingly juvenile as anything Todd Phillips has ever made), but for the most part all they do is point up the areas where it doesn’t work. The ensemble doesn’t gel like it used to, and often seems like an afterthought. Miranda’s problem with her boss is dealt with in one scene in the first act and afterwards she’s left with nothing to do but be a sort of group cheerleader, and Charlotte’s dilemma is largely reduced to a gag about bad cell phone reception once they reach the Middle East.
Taken individually a lot of the scenes are well done, funny and interesting and dramatic, but they’re puzzle pieces from twelve different boxes, thrown together at random. For all the time you’re going to put into “Sex and the City 2,” all you’re getting out of it is a mess.