I am not, nor do I fancy myself to be, a “tough guy”. You should require no more proof than the fact that I just used the word “fancy” as a verb. However, should that not be sufficient, allow me to expound. I don’t watch or play sports. I don’t own any Ed Hardy t-shirts nor do I wear Axe Body Spray. When my car needs new windshield-wipers, my wife installs them. And I watch TV shows like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. In fact, I (willingly) watched Sex and the City when it originally aired. Every episode. Sometimes my wife even joined me. So while I’m not what marketers would refer to as the film’s “target demo”, I’m not bringing any level of animosity to the equation either. Which brings us to Sex and the City 2, a movie so dripping with estrogen that I think I just got my period. This time out we find our heroines en route to the United Arab Emirates. You would think sending the girls to the sexually repressed Middle East would be ripe for comedic situations. You would be wrong. Very, very wrong.
Each of the leads has struggles of her own. Carrie’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) marriage to Big (Chris Noth) has hit a frightening rut. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is doing everything in her power to stave off the effects of menopause (in what can only be described as a Suzanne Somers’ infomercial masquerading as a subplot). Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is out of work after impulsively quitting her job to spite a chauvinistic boss. And Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is fretting over her young, sexy and perpetually braless nanny.
The difficulty with turning a television show into a movie is that most shows (especially ones like Sex and the City) tend to tell small stories which don’t resonate well on the big screen. The previous installment avoided this trap by building their plot around Carrie’s and Big’s impending nuptials. And though that gave them a larger story to tell, it also sapped the film of much of what made the television show work in the first place. While the premise of transplanting these liberated ladies to the hyper-conservative world of the Middle East would, on its face, seem to be a good idea, the execution is sorely lacking. Moving the story out of New York is major miscalculation in that the city is almost a fifth character. Compounding problems is that three of the four characters are married. The end result being that Sex and the City is almost entirely absent of “sex” and “city”.
The jokes in the film frequently fall flat. Some of it is bad writing as the script relies repeatedly on groan inducing puns. But most of the jokes are over-delivered in a fashion that borders on Leno-esque (yeah, that’s a word now). The few attempts the movie makes at coining new phrases (like it did in its heyday) completely miss the mark. And there are no clever or interesting insights into the etiquette of sexual relationships that the show would so often provide in its halcyon days. The film has all the excitement of watching someone else’s vacation slides; largely because we are.
This film, like its predecessor, spends much of its time in search of a story. Sex and the City was never an overly plot-driven show. Though it developed many of the trappings of a traditional soap opera, we were there for the interaction and repartee of the four women. Here, even when they do share screen time, the filmmakers spend most of it moving them from place to place rather than just letting them sit a table and talk (which were always among the strongest scenes in the series).
The film does pick up steam in its final half-hour once the women are truly allowed to interact but by then it’s far too late. The picture clocks-in at a bloated two hours and forty-five minutes. If you figure that the average length of an episode was twenty-five minutes that makes this the equivalent of watching six and a half episodes back-to-back. That’s almost half a season in one sitting. And it feels like it.
Sex and the City 2 adopts a smug “liberal-er than thou” attitude upon arriving in the Middle East. It takes great pains to thumb its nose at the antiquated submissiveness the region requires of its women. But the subject matter is such low-hanging fruit, and their methods of mockery so simplistic, that it all starts to feel mean-spirited. By the time the girls take to the stage of a Middle Eastern karaoke bar and *gulp* inspire a bar full of repressed females with their rendition of I Am Woman (man, I wish I was making that up for comedic effect) the smugness slaps you in the face in ways that Avatar can only dream of. And let’s not get started on how the film attempts to re-imagine its own slavish devotion to high-end couture as some sort of feminist statement.
There is a long and storied history of adapting television shows into feature length films. However, they had the decency to not actually release them as feature films. Instead they were “Movies Of The Week” in which we saw the rapidly aging stars of yesteryear trying to grab a quick buck without embarrassing themselves. They at least had the common decency not to charge us $10 for the “privilege” of watching.