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Sex and the City 2

Time to Retire the Manolo Blahniks

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Sex and the City 2, the sequel to 2008’s big-screen adaptation of the successful cable series that ran on HBO from 1998 to 2004, is like its predecessor, an unnecessarily overlong, over-indulgent ode to conspicuous consumption and past-their-prime, over-indulgent, self-centered, relentlessly shallow characters.

At least the big-screen sequel at least had some justification. Sex and the City made $153 million at the U.S. box office from the dedicated fans of the HBO series. With another $263 million internationally, a sequel, however unnecessary, was inevitable.

With nowhere to take characters well past their cultural moment (and relevance), writer-director Michael Patrick King, spends the first half hour on Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marantino’s (Mario Cantone) flamboyant gay wedding.

The wedding gives their respective best friends, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), the chance to hang out with the other members of their clique, Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall). The wedding concludes with a cringe-inducing performance by a frail, flailing Liza Minnelli of Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” It’s the first of many missteps to come.

Carrie remains married to Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a.k.a. John James Preston, but after two years, routine has replaced passion. Charlotte is happily married to Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler), but finds the roles of mother and housewife, even with a nanny, constricting. She also has concerns about the nanny, a young Irish woman who never wears a bra. Miranda is still married, mostly happily to Steve Brady (David Eigenberg), but has run into a glass ceiling at her law firm. Samantha, a successful publicist remains sexually voracious.

After Samantha receives an all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi, she invites Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda. In Abu Dhabi, Carrie runs into her ex-boyfriend, Aidan (John Corbett), Charlotte frets about leaving her husband behind with the Irish nanny, Miranda, still a Type-A personality, and Samantha fears growing old (she’s 52) and losing her sex drive. Their predictable misadventures lead them to, at least in one case, a scrape with Abu Dhabi’s conservative laws, and, unsurprisingly, a few obvious life lessons.

Overlong at nearly two-and-a-half hours, Sex and the City 2 suffers from a paltry, stakes-free storyline. The complications and conflicts are as shallow and self-serving as they were before. Only Carrie and her relationship with Mr. Big has the potential for a major blow-up, but since Sex and the City 2 is a theatrical film rather than another episode or story arc of the series, we know exactly where and how it’ll end. In that at least, King doesn’t disappoint.

Where he does disappoint, however, is in the tired, clichéd gay stereotypes — novel, maybe, in 1998, now, not at all — the insensitive, offensive attitude toward Middle Easterners, and the regressive, retrograde relationship between Carrie and Mr. Big.

Mr. Big provides Carrie with material comfort, letting her decorate their spacious condo to her obviously expensive tastes, but when it comes to the emotional side of their relationship, he fails, treating Carrie with condescension, repeatedly calling her “kid” despite her age, citing his previous experience with marriage as a defense against Carrie’s demands he considers unjustified or excessive.

Then again, Mr. Big is the life partner Carrie and some fans want. It’s hard to remember, let alone imagine that not that long ago, Sex and the City was once lauded for its positive, even progressive take on women. In retrospect, that was a misconception, one due primarily to the frank, R-rated discussion of sex found on the series and not the depiction of gender or gender roles.