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Prissiest Queens of the Desert

MOVIE REVIEW
Sex and the City 2 (2010)

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Craig Blankenhorn/Warner Bros. Pictures

Twelve years after its launch helped herald a landmark in the dual histories of HBO and pop-culture portrayals of strong women, the “Sex and the City” franchise has officially landed in the toilet. It arrives there courtesy of “Sex and the City 2,” this pathetically moribund sequel to the 2008 movie which robs the material of every aspect of merit and interest while playing up its most vapid qualities to an uncomfortable extent.

The story of fiercely independent women who are proudly materialistic at times, sex obsessed at others and always filled with insights into single life in millennial New York City transforms into a shrill, cringe-worthy collection of flashy commercialism and trashy sub-vaudevillian puns. This sequel also takes New York out of the equation, replacing it for most of the running time with Connecticut (home of the gay nuptials that serve as the opening set piece) and a portrait of Abu Dhabi as Arabian paradise.

“Sex and the City” without New York is, well, “Sex;” but the movie doesn’t even offer much of that either, beyond the requisite medium-distance shots of some hot stud thrusting into Samantha (Kim Cattrall). So it is that Samantha, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) travel first-class to Abu Dhabi on the dime of a super wealthy sheik. There, living in obscene luxury (each gets her own car and butler), they alternately enthuse over the wealthy extravagance with unrestrained, nauseating glee or repetitively psychoanalyze themselves and their relationships.

The film from writer-director Michael Patrick King demonstrates not a shred of interest in life in the actual Middle East, beyond superficially contrasting its close-minded attitude toward public displays of sexuality with the land of the free, wherein Samantha can have sex on the hood of a car parked at a public Hamptons beach as fireworks explode overhead.

Filled with drum-roll bating lines as “I’m having a midwife crisis,” dilemmas so forced and unconvincing (Charlotte panics about her husband cheating on her because her buxom babysitter refuses to wear a bra) that they never seem more than lame manufactured conceits and a disquieting celebration of trashy materialism that's tinged with racist overtones, “Sex and the City 2” would be a difficult movie to endure no matter its length. At an astounding 150 minutes, it’s an obscenity, hopefully a death knell for a franchise that should go gracefully into that good night.

SEX AND THE CITY 2

Opens on May 27 in the United States and on May 28 in Britain.

Written and directed by Michael Patrick King, based on the television series created by Darren Star and characters from the book by Candace Bushnell; director of photography, John Thomas; edited by Michael Berenbaum; music by Aaron Zigman; production designer, Jeremy Conway; costumes by Patricia Field; produced by Mr. King, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mr. Star and John Melfi; released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 27 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York-Goldenblatt), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes), John Corbett (Aidan Shaw), Chris Noth (Mr. Big), David Eigenberg (Steve Brady), Evan Handler (Harry Goldenblatt), Jason Lewis (Smith Jerrod), Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch), Mario Cantone (Anthony Marantino), Alice Eve (nanny), and Liza Minnelli and Penélope Cruz.

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