Movie Review: Sex and the City 2 (2010)

100% better than #1, but doesn’t soar __ 6.5/10

Sex and the City 2Has it already been two years since the first Sex and the City movie?! Actually two and a half years. That’s amazing! In the summer of 2008 we were subjected to the first—I must say deeply flawed effort—by Michael Patrick King… where one of the culminating events is “Charlotte [having] an embarrassing incident with her bowels [bringing on] the guffaws [and taking] Carrie out of her funk.” Thinking back on #1, I remember distinctly hoping every scene after the first five minutes would be the last. Still I gave it a 4 (out of 10) for old time’s sake.

Book Candace Bushnell
Screenplay by Michael Patrick King
Directed by Michael Patrick King

Sarah Jessica Parker … Carrie Bradshaw
Kim Cattrall … Samantha Jones
Kristin Davis … Charlotte York
Cynthia Nixon … Miranda Hobbes
Chris Noth … Big
David Eigenberg … Steve Brady
Willie Garson … Stanford Blatch
Evan Handler … Harry Goldenblatt
Mario Cantone … Anthony Marantino
Liza Minnelli … Herself

Even though IMDb goes from 5.4 to 4.0 between #1 and #2, I see it going the other way. SC2 is considerably better written and choreographed, even furnishing a serviceable plot. [Okay, #1 had a plot, which was Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) finally getting married to Big (Chris Noth)… after simply a staggering amount of nasty, irrelevant, whiny-women ‘action’.] The main issue I had with SC1 was its endeavor to leave no politically correct stone unturned—from giving Jennifer Hudson (a black singer) a role to making the men out to be complete boneheads.

Number 2 starts out in a seemingly politically correct vein, as well, as two of the girls’ gay male friends—longtime viewers of the show will recognize them—have an extraordinary lavish wedding at a country mansion in Connecticut. I’m thinking, “Oh boy, I sure hope this isn’t one long gay pride crusade, with one lame homosexual double-entendre joke after another.” My worst fears along these lines are dispelled by Liza Minnelli performing a somewhat self-parodying—I recall from my celebrity ancient-history file that she married a guy who turned out to be gay—song-and-dance number after the vows. Actually, she does an excellent job, and I enjoy the bit considerably.

So first 10-15 minutes of the film, mildly uncomfortable, awkward, and, except for Liza’s showbiz deal, feeble-minded. The scenes at this gay wedding event, though, are constructive… yielding a few hints of what will become the plot. This wedding is more like a weekend festival, and select guests stay over on the estate. Charlotte and her guy (interesting bald, Jewish man, haven’t the slightest idea his character or actor name) have a couple of girls, one of them going through the Terrible Twos. They also have a nanny, who has come to the wedding with them. Nanny is young hot babe, with amazing breasts that don’t seem to require a brassiere. So the next 10 minutes we go from the gay stereotyping to the “ogle chick with the big bosom” stereotype. As if the filmmaker wants to throw a crumb to the heterosexuals or something.

Well, doesn’t work, at least not for me. But aha, those clever screenwriters are using the young hot nanny as a concern for Charlotte later down the road, which folds into having a heart-to-heart with Miranda, which deals with another stereotype that, fortunately, this time the creators get right: that motherhood can be one of those conditions you may want to be careful about what you wish for. On top of the Terrible Twos, there’s the concern that Clever Jewish Bald Guy will leave Charlotte for Miss Bouncy Bounce. [In the conversation with Miranda, lubricated well, Charlotte confides that were her husband to run off with the nanny, Charlotte would be most furious about losing the nanny!]

So these are quality scenes. There are several other message points that the creators decided would be cool, such as:

  1. resurrecting feminism against a rich, puritanical Arab oil dynasty,
  2. it’s okay for a couple not to want to have children,
  3. women in their 50s (Samantha) can still get it on,
  4. life extension/enhancement supplementation comes out of the closet, with Samantha, in a manner showing the filmmakers are for it… but still commenting on its funny aspects,[1]
  5. a married couple can arrange to have Days Off—Carrie and Big—without hurting the relationship,
  6. women’s friendships can last and mature from 30 to 50, and
  7. probably another few minor ones that I’m forgetting

For the most part, the writers make their points without sacrificing the humorous banter among the girls. Further, Carrie’s popping narrative—she’s a lifestyle writer in New York—was what inspired so much of the original series; that whole dynamic becomes invigorated in SC2. What I bemoaned in SC1 was the absence of such cleverness about “sex in the city” from a young, ambitious woman’s tuned-in perspective. Still none of these praises completely compensates for the movie having a plot pulled from a ‘random number generator.’

Samantha’s former lover is doing a movie in the Middle East kingdom of Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and he suggests to one of the rich rulers there that Samantha is in the promotional business… and perhaps they could help each other. This guy is rich as a sheik, and asks if Samantha, with her three girlfriends, would like to take an all-expense-paid trip to Abu Dhabi for a whole week of sightseeing, shopping, night life, and so on. He and Samantha would meet toward the end to discuss business.

Whether or not the trip to Abu Dhabi makes sense as a plot, the scenery and splendor of that country are unbelievable. Further, the writers have handed us a fair opportunity for cultural exploration here. Most people are probably not aware of how commercially alive the country is, not to mention the people’s education and refinement. But they do draw the line on expressions of affection in public. You can really get in trouble. Also, they have a medieval attitude about drugs and supplements, which Samantha runs into at customs… she’s fighting menopause with some of them.

Let me end with a couple of quotes from the IMDb site:

Samantha Jones: [to Charlotte] Everyone knows you don’t hire a hot nanny, it’s the law!
Carrie Bradshaw: Yeah, Jude Law

[Carrie and Big are being kept awake by Charlotte’s baby crying and Samantha’s loud sex]
Mr. Big: I don’t know which is worse.
Carrie Bradshaw: Samantha. The baby will eventually tire.

All right, you can see we’re working with some weaker comedic material. But at least there’s hope. If you liked the original series, I think there’s a 50% chance you will like the SC2 movie as a halfway-good movie.

[1] Suzanne Somers book, Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness, was displayed at least twice. Basically, Samantha is a huge fan of Somers, who also had a bout with cancer. Somers has bravely taken on the FDA and the Health, Inc., and I plan to read this one and the next one shortly.

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