The continuing story of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristen Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) as they struggle to manage their loves, friends and careers. 

A truly terrible '2'

The first Sex and the City film was an inevitable extension of the successful HBO series, albeit a largely unnecessary one for its fans (of which this writer is one). If there were any loose ends to be tied up from the show, the first movie more than did the job, in an exhaustive 150 mins of screen time devoted to the four main characters and their marital, maternal and menopausal crises. It resolved the central Carrie/Mr Big dilemma by giving them both a wedding band (and the groom a Christian name). It resolved Charlotte’s yearning for a family. It resolved Miranda’s commitment issues by testing her marital bonds, and Samantha got her mojo back by moving back to New York. Though overlong and self-indulgent, the film achieved a logical conclusion for its core of four and all was right with their world. That was until the box office receipts necessitated a sequel...

Since all’s fair in love and movie franchises, Carrie’s experience of wedded bliss is short lived. Sex and the City 2 marks two years since she and Big/John tied the knot and their anniversary heralds the 'Terrible Twos’; familiarity starts to breed a certain contempt within Carrie, for her husband’s love of brown bag takeaway and watching telly in bed. Elsewhere, Charlotte and her burgeoning brood are gripped by a more traditional case of the 'Terrible Twos’... and the script’s frequent references to the phenomenon make for irresistible unintended irony in what amounts to an appalling movie sequel.

Perhaps for many audiences just seeing 'the gals’ back together is enough to sustain another two-and-a-half hours of screen time. For everyone else, the overwhelming sense of déja vu from the storyline is offset by sand dunes and scatter cushions. That’s right ladies, this time Carrie’s Big crisis takes place in the Middle East!

Since money was the motivator for this film, it makes sense that is it also the motivator within it, but whilst the world has changed a lot in the last two years, you wouldn’t know it by watching SATC2. In this fantasyland there’s no such thing as a credit crunch, and these may be the only well-heeled New Yorkers whose coffers weren’t downsized by Bernie Madoff.

The long-running series made a star of stylist Patricia Field, but the designer duds were always mere window dressing around smart dialogue and engaging stories about independently wealthy single women confronting universal problems. But somewhere in the transition to cinema, the dialogue’s been reduced to awful puns ('mid-wife crisis", anyone?) and the story is less about real people and more about unreal things: Miranda’s stunted story arc gets roughly equivalent screen time to a series of collective gasps at opulent hotel fixtures; a camel ride amongst the sand dunes achieves nothing but a pointless slo-mo costume reveal (oh, and a chance to rhyme 'Arabia’ with 'labia’); and it speaks volumes that the third act’s frenzy of activity is initiated by the threat of having to fly back Economy.

When an established format uproots its central characters to a fresh location, it’s generally tacit acknowledgement that the writers are officially out of ideas (The Fonz didn’t jump the shark in Milwaukee, after all). Packing the bags is one of the oldest tricks in the book to shield the viewers' eyes from the dead horse being flogged before them. SATC2 could have been an exception to this rule, given the plot potential inherent in taking overtly sexual women to a region renowned for its discretion. Pity then, the culture clash is reduced to a brash, one-note attempt to liberate the veiled ladies of Abu Dhabi with obnoxious Yankee Girl Power, before a pat 'under their burqas, they’re just like us’ epiphany.

The film’s tone-deaf cultural awareness extends to a boozy karaoke rendition of 'I Am Woman’ which is equal parts naïve/patronising, and culminates in a truly embarrassing 'Up Yours’ climax, directed at a group of disapproving Middle Easterners who frown upon the prophylactic contents of Samantha’s handbag. This bizarre 'Stickin’ it to The Man’ moment in the bazaar backfires entirely. I don’t care which (if any) God you pray to, settling a score by thrusting your crotch at complete strangers, screaming 'I have sex! Yeah, that’s right, I fuck!", amounts to a hollow victory, at best.

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