“Sex and the City 2” Decadent Fun but a Little Soulless

The girls are back for some glamorous but soulless fun in "Sex and the City 2"

Any filmmaker schooled in the lessons of economic storytelling, succinct editing, and trimming of the fat, would do well to stay away from the new Sex and the City film. Those who like to have a fun, glamorous time, and/or love “Sex and the City”, will enjoy it, even while noticing its flaws.

When the first Sex and the City film opened, it was an event. Not only was it the first time Carrie and the Girls would be looming larger than ever on the silver screen, but it had been a significant passage of time between the end of the series and the film. So much could have and did happen for all the women, that we were anxious and excited to see where they were, and who they had become.

The first film had weight and pathos among all the fashion, excess, and pretty people. It had a reason for existing, besides simply allowing its fans to spend more time with the girls (which isn’t an illegitimate reason in itself.)

Now, a mere two years later, Sex and the City 2 is released, looking – based on the promotional material – more glossy, airbrushed, and exotic than ever. Glittering desert dunes and pristine Arabian pillars flank the stars as they strut across the sand in their attire, drinking pretty drinks and dripping with diamonds and luxury.

I was worried the girls themselves and their stories would be drowned out among such excess.

And to some extent, they were.

Yes, it is pure “Sex and the City fun, which is what I turn to it for. Yes, the girls are still fabulous and funny and nuanced and flawed and searching and wise and confused. That is what we love about them.

But did this really need to be made? What new revelations or character arcs emerge from their excursions to Abu Dhabi? Truthfully, not many.

The central conflict is Carrie’s attempt to deal with transitioning into a new phase of her marriage with Big. He wants to sit on the couch and watch his HDTV, and she wants to go out on the town. Okay, a valid conflict and issue, but enough to fill a two-and-a-half-hour glitzy epic? Not sure.

Samantha is trying to trick her body into thinking it’s younger with a bevy of hormone pills and medication, and when they are confiscated in Abu Dhabi, she clamors for an alternative, eating platefuls of yams and hummus in an attempt to soak up whatever tiny amounts of estrogen they contain.

Charlotte is struggling with two difficult, time-consuming children and a busty Irish nanny. Miranda gathers the strength to quit working for a tyrannical boss. Otherwise, these two just come along for the ride behind Carrie and Samantha. Not much gets revealed or worked out or explored for them.

The film could have been cut down to an hour and a half, but instead writer/director Michael Patrick King loads it with long, meandering scenes in the exotic location, superstar cameos –  including a hilarious moment of Liza Minelli doing a rendition of “Single Ladies,” (but again, what’s the point? Are we supposed to buy that she would put in an appearance at Stanford and Anthony’s wedding?) – and a long club scene where the girls perform “I Am Woman,” with Samantha looking like Shredder from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in her dress.

Again, all of this is big, glossy fun and I enjoyed it. But in the middle of my enjoyment, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why is this story being told? In my opinion, they should have set the story a significant time in the future, where their children were older, they were in much different places personally and professionally, and a real story could have been told. A purpose for making another lavish film with these great characters would have made it a much more significant experience.

But maybe I’m being too serious for a Sex and the City film. Except, I don’t think I am. I apply all of these critiques to the previous installments, and they all pass the test with flying colors. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for this new film. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Amid all the dripping glam and gloss and exotic adventures, the heart and soul of what we have loved in “Sex and the City” got lost. And it’s a shame. But at the same time, it is shameful fun.

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