If only they'd called it Almost No Sex and Very Little City, at least we would know what we were in for with Sex and the City 2.
In this second screen incarnation of the fabulous HBO series, the satire is sagging, the irony is atrophied and the funny is flabby. Yes, the clothes are more fabulous than ever, but Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte have misplaced their chic and sassy and become — gulp — ordinary and desperate. They were never supposed to be like the rest of us.
Still, the women are not anywhere as desperate as the movie itself, which fails its stars and its obsessive fans, unless everyone was waiting for the AARP version. Writer-director Michael Patrick King, who has been behind the wheel since Sex's first stirrings, is clearly driven by love — but baby, sometimes love just ain't enough.
The opening suggested such promise, with a whimsical back-to-the-future reminder of who they were in 1986, morphing into where they are 20-plus years later. Charlotte (Kristin Davis), now a mother of two, cries over cupcakes; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is cowed by her misogynistic boss; Samantha (Kim Cattrall) suffers a humiliating red carpet run-in with Miley Cyrus, who's wearing exactly the same shimmery mini; and Big (Chris Noth), who used to be the deadliest catch, two years into marriage to Carrie is content to simply watch Deadliest Catch.
That has left Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) trying to figure out the rules of the 21st-century marriage game with Mr. Couch Potato, her gay friends and her girlfriends, which is not nearly as sexy as the Manhattan singles scene. Or, as Samantha might say, being married in the Big Apple bites.
Naturally, it's tougher to keep the veneer from cracking with the gal pals settling into their 40s, and in Samantha's case, very sweaty hot-flash 50s. Everything about their lives has become so tame that it takes a trip to Abu Dhabi — where canoodling in public is a crime — for any of them to seem outrageous at all.
This being a treatise on marriage, Sex and the City-style, the action starts stateside with a gay wedding extravaganza coupling Carrie's GBF (gay best friend, duh) Stanford (Willie Garson) to Charlotte's GBF, Anthony (Mario Cantone) until death, or a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage, do them part.
The ostentatious-all-the-time Abu Dhabi trip comes courtesy of a sheik Samantha met, and this is where the existential — and menopausal — boundary pushing becomes shark-jumping. For Charlotte, crisis comes in spotty cell phone coverage; for Samantha, it's libido issues; for Carrie, it's temptation in the form of dreamy Aidan (John Corbett), the former beau making her wonder about her Big commitment. Miranda is left scrambling to shore up this sinking ship.
Much of the film was shot in Morocco, and 2 delivers more costume changes than Scheherazade had stories.
King might have done well to borrow from classic Arabian tales. Instead, the script is at its weakest when he takes a stab at burqa jokes and the lives of the women confined to them. In general, the film's Muslim sendups are either painfully clichéd or cringe-worthy. "Bedouin, Bath & Beyond" is bad enough, but "the real housewives of Abu Dhabi"? Really?