"Sex and the City 2" offers lots of fashion, fun, and fornication, but it's friendship that fuels the film.
Those Sex and the City fashionistas, Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha, are high priestesses of the church of friendship. In the sequel to their 2008 big-screen triumph, each knows it's time for an "interfriendtion." That's SATC-speak for intervention, as in: Get girlfriend off runaway train and back on track.
Sex and the City 2 is a champagne cocktail on a runaway train — fizzy, sparkly, giddy-making, and splashing all over the place.
At nearly 2 hours, much of it at an Abu Dhabi resort hotel that resembles Vegas without neon but with burqas, the film could use an "interfriendtion" or four. It doesn't know where it's going, and there are many gasp-worthy laughs getting there.
(There are also just as many gasp-worthy elements that push the envelope for an R-rated movie. Outside of soft-core erotica, one does not often encounter so many crotch shots of men. But I digress.)
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has published a new book, I Do, or Do I?, a consideration of a marriage that, like the younger daughter of Charlotte (Kristin Davis), is experiencing the terrible twos.
These chums got what they wanted, but aren't sure that they want it anymore. Similarly, newly happy-with-hubby Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is now unhappy at work with a sexist boss, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is lost in "the menopause maze." To the extent that the movie has a point, it's about their struggle to get the spark, sparkle — and libido — back.
Mostly, writer/director Michael Patrick King deploys his four stars as luxury brands who, from Cuisinart to YSL, essentially endorse and model other luxury brands. Every logo and label gets its loving close-up (and is more attentively lit, it must be said, than the stars, whose skin resembles wax fruit).
It also must be said that King is not a fluid filmmaker, which makes his long movie seem even longer than it is. His sequences have a ba-da-bing rhythm, and not in a good way. He typically begins with a long shot of his stars (or star) in full body, followed by a close-up of their/her outfit, and capped by a reveal to show that even their/her accessories have accessories.
Yet the rhythm that makes the visuals so perfunctory can be a good setup for jokes. One involving physics and Liza Minnelli is particularly funny. Another, as married-with-children Charlotte and Miranda trade mommy horror stories, they stop to toast all the moms without their privileges.
Considerably less funny is the repartee about Muslim female modesty delivered by these let-it-all-hang-out Yanks. It might set back Arab-American relations by centuries.
Still, it's not the fashion or the funny or the fornication that makes SATC 2 potent, despite its many flaws. It's the characters.
The advantage that TV has over feature film is that it shows principals over a long period of time and in multiple contexts. Like Kirk and Spock on Star Trek, we know Carrie, Miranda, et al. and are curious about how these figures will meet new conflicts and challenges.
Nixon, whose Miranda was so whiny in the last SATC film, is particularly winning in this one. Parker, once again, is the cranky friend who can walk in five-inch heels but is easily tripped up by minuscule problems.
In this featherlight fantasy where women eat and never gain weight, drink and never get tipsy, wear clothes that only billionairesses can afford (and never get wrinkled!), the four women have two rules to live by: (1) Label clothes, not people; (2) girls just want to have friend. That resonates.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.