Once upon a time, there was a hit television show called Sex and the City. On the surface, it seemed like nothing new -- four women decked out in expensive fashions who lived it up in expensive Manhattan with little concern for money. But the series made waves by offering a new outlook on life. These women, all over 30, weren't married with kids, living in the burbs. They were single, professionally successful women charting their own course, while talking frankly about their experiences with sex, love, and city life.
Two years ago, we were treated to the first movie, a follow-up that disregarded much of the show's charm and played out like a self-indulgent squeal fest rather than a worthy cinematic endeavor. And this past weekend, we got the sequel, which takes the superficiality of the first to new, and infinitely blander, levels. Sex and the City 2 doesn't seem like it was made by the man who worked as executive producer, writer, and director on the hit HBO series. It feels like it was made by someone who never watched the show, who was never interested in it, and could only provide the superficial aspects known through reputation.
Essentially, the sequel holds the same issues that the first film had. As I wrote in my 2008 rant, "the ladies have always loved the labels, and done expensive things, but it was still grounded in some sort of far-reaching reality, rather than a flashy showcase of life where money is no object. Let the women have their success, but let that success be filled with depth and balanced by the rest of what life offers." But number two manages to offer even less depth and even less story.
Carrie is fearing that Big's desire to eat delivery and watch TV will overcome their lives and erase all semblance of a social life. Instead of talking honestly with her man, she reaches out for the one thing that can't give her what she wants -- Aiden. (Oh yes, the man who likes to stay in and eat KFC in his tightie-whities is the perfect Big replacement.)
Charlotte discovers that motherhood is tough, and even tougher -- having a nanny who refuses to wear a bra, eliciting all the ladies, and men, to ogle. (No, Charlotte couldn't simply tell Ms. Thang that it's not cool to have bath time turn into a nipply wet T-shirt contest, even if that would fix half the problem pronto. No, she can't make use of the nanny and create a life outside her stay-at-home parenting.)
Samantha continues to be her audacious self, tricking her body out of menopause with hormones and biting her thumb at the Middle East's conservative views of sex, choosing to flaunt her sexuality and tick off Abu Dhabi's Muslim population.
Miranda must continue to struggle with her job, but now she has a boss who hates her, and a husband who thinks she should quit and spend some time home before getting a new job. (No, she couldn't find a new job first, even though it's not in her nature to sit idly all day. No, Steve still cannot accept his wife for who she is.)
That's the whole story, folks. Though there is little attention paid to each character's storyline, and in many cases conversation is traded in for lame one-liners, the film takes over two hours to play out because the girls have to fly to Abu Dhabi and see how their New Yorker ways clash with Middle Eastern culture and religion. It's obvious that the film's creators are no longer interested in challenging normal expectations for women their age, or offering relatable storylines. The women that have had children find their lives nothing more than stereotypes, worrying about sexy nannies, or how work is tough when you're a mom. And those who haven't had children get nothing, absolutely nothing new to experience.
As the lone person who can still be considered a woman having sex in the city, Samantha is a mere caricature. She relives the "Friar F***" storyline so that she may be comic relief to her friends. She's supposed to be a PR rep so successful that her office overlooks Times Square, but she cannot even handle her own public relations in a respectable manner when a possible client spends thousands of dollars to fly her and her friends to Abu Dhabi. There's no drama, no arc -- just sex, stupidity, and overt sexuality.
Carrie, meanwhile, gets to re-live old seasons, having another triangle with Big and Aiden. Seeing Aiden in Abu Dhabi might be a shocker, but there's absolutely nothing he can offer her except more bad decisions. She's done the cheating thing. She's dealt with a lover who prefers staying home to going out. She's even dealt with fans who shouldn't, in any way, be fans of her writing. (On the show, it was a young girl who believed in abstinence. In this film, it's a fan who looks at Carrie with disdain upon learning that she and Big won't have children.)
What's even worse about Carrie's storyline is that it serves no purpose but to have the outside world beat her down for her choices. Whether we're talking the fan who is visibly disgusted with her life choices or the bad review she gets for her latest book, the world tells Carrie to shut up and fall into line. If this idea was played out thoroughly, it would be a great way to show that differing life paths are okay. But in this wholly superficial manner, it's as if Michael Patrick King wants the world to think of Carrie and Samantha as dull aberrations, devoid of the depth of life that Charlotte and Miranda have with kids. And even the moms don't get much cinematic respect, save for one honest -- but brief -- conversation between the two.
Ultimately, the disregard for these four fictional women is phenomenal. With over two hours of space, each could have gotten a rich and rewarding storyline that was fun as well as worthy of the audience's time. There's no reason Miranda's problem couldn't have been fleshed out, rather than get set up, ignored, and then wrapped up in a montage voiceover. Charlotte, at the very least, should have had an opportunity to talk with her ever-supportive husband, and ideally -- gotten a wrap-up worthy of a successful and intelligent woman. Samantha should've gotten some semblance of a storyline at all. And Carrie -- the opportunity to do something new and not just replay old storylines.
I can only surmise that Michael Patrick King and the cast and crew of Sex and the City are sick to death of the world, the characters, and the message. There's no other answer for why this sequel is such a bloated, boring, and frankly insulting waste of time.