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Sex and the City 2
Ah yes, "Sex and the City 2." It's the high fashion, glass-clinking instruction booklet for life as a successful woman, catering to the needs of the staunchly female audience by presenting male choirs, erect penises, Helen Reddy karaoke, "Mommie Dearest" costuming, and a cameo by Liza Minnelli. Hey, wait a minute! I suspect nothing about "Sex and the City 2" directly concerns the same heterosexual high kick the adored television series celebrated; this sequel makes "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" look like "The Remains of the Day."
Two years later and it appears Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) have hit a rough patch in their marriage, with the tactless writer wanting more to life than peaceful, reliable domesticity, agonized that her husband would rather spend time with his new HD television than with his jewelry-demanding shrew of a wife. Coming to her aid are pals Charlotte (Kristin Davis), currently suffering the mommy blues when she finds out her nanny (an aptly cast Alice Eve) is too attractive; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), struggling with her male-dominated workplace; and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who's now facing the ravages of menopause. Together they bond over clothes, booze, shoes, vaginal moisturizer, and a random trip to Abu Dhabi, where the girls spend their evenings bonding like the lifelong BFFs they are, and their days cheerfully urinating all over sacred Muslim culture.
"Sex and the City 2" is an atrocious motion picture. I know, coming from a male (gasp!) film critic (double gasp!), a statement that severe doesn't suggest a particularly sensitive point of view, but I implore those with even a modicum of Redbox hesitation to see something else, spend a moment with family, or pledge time to a charity. There's has to be a better way to blow your precious moments on Earth than with something as brazenly vile and hateful as this sequel. Just what in the hell was the production thinking?
2008's "Sex and the City" feature film wasn't exactly a walk in the park either, yet the smash hit held tight to the tenets of the HBO series, giving fans a bedazzled big screen adventure to sate their Carrie needs. The sequel, tossed together in a hurry, doesn't bother furthering the established flow, instead flinging itself into the outer reaches of farce, melodrama, and camp. Open-mouthed and airheaded, "City 2" is an unmitigated disaster, showering the frame with garish costume design and dreamy far off lands to cover for the obvious void on display. Perhaps writer/director Michael Patrick King was distracted by all of the shiny things on set, as "City 2" is the work of a man who clearly abandoned his senses. It's a foolish, angry picture, and one that bares its fangs without reason.
Sure, it kicks off with a certain spring to its step: Charlotte facing the ample swinging breasts of her live-in help, Samantha furiously trying to hold off the inevitability of maturation with pills, and Carrie finding the routine of marriage crippling to her sense of romance -- to her, a man who brings home high-end Japanese take-out is no man at all. Miranda? Her glass ceiling woes have far too much real world application to be handed more than a few beats of screentime. The troubles are expectedly absurd and the performances predictably shrill, but King only dips a toe into the NYC situation, preferring to stick around for some red carpet horrors and a few lunches before it's off to the United Arab Emirates, unleashing the horrible foursome on the unsuspecting, repressive Muslim world.
Pulling the gang out of New York City should've inspired King to develop the "City 2" universe beyond the routine of broads and Blahniks, placing our heroines in a harsh alien land with little protection from the foreign sun outside of the clothes on their backs. Instead, King cranks up the dreary fashion show mentality to a higher decibel, portraying the foursome as dimwitted American ghouls stomping around Abu Dhabi cracking jokes about burqas and openly mocking the extremes of Muslim law. It would be the ballsiest material of the year if it weren't so ugly and needlessly raw, revealing a pus-filled mean streak to King that I don't think anyone could've expected. I'm all for farce and a ribald sense of humor, but the script here is cruel, not only to the Middle East, but also to viewers forced to endure the sight of a grown woman wearing humongous metal spikes for shoulder pads. King attempts to soften the blow late in the movie by bending the gang's bile into pure girl power, but the damage is done, the eyesore outfits aplenty, and, for some reason, actor John Corbett is prodded into this mess to make Carrie's life a waking nightmare of simplistic decision, positioned between her creepy husband and her creepy ex-boyfriend Aiden.
The kicker here? It takes 145 minutes to sort out this hurricane of obvious. And King makes you feel every last crawling second of this beast by piping in the puns (Samantha is looking for a man to be her "Lawrence of my labia"), making fetch happen through the reoccurring use of the term "Interfriendtion," and staging a Lucyesque finale that finds the gals slipping into burqas to escape the wrath of the Abu Dhabi locals.
The VC-1 encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) preserves the opulent visual design of the cinematography, with the shimmers and glitters maintained throughout the presentation. Because most viewers are here for the costumes, it's a pleasure to report the textures and the design of the wardrobes are sustained superbly during the film, gifting the viewer a chance to soak all the nuances up. Facial detail is equally as communicative, covering the range of broad reactions from the cast and extras. Skintones are relaxed, while shadow detail is best served in bright locations, with plenty of daylight to open up the visual reach. Low-light sequences feel a bit muddy and unconvincing. Colors are explosive, blasting through when the picture turns up the alleged glamour.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is a very bold experience that pushes soundtrack cues and vocal performance up high, hitting a few tinny moments that necessitates a tight control of the volume setting. Dialogue exchanges are easy enough to understand, only hitting a few moments of multi-voiced disturbance. Atmospherics are strong, with New York City and wedding sequences filling out the dimensionality of the track, keeping the listener in the thick of the party. Scoring cues are light, but effective, seeping into the action with little insistence. French and Spanish tracks are also available.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are offered.
The feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Michael Patrick King is a mixed bag. Clearly, the man has thought his franchise through to the last detail, and I appreciate his considered conversation, pointing out the themes of the film and the turns of character he felt were necessary to take the sequel into a fresh direction. He's a confident commentator. However, King never addresses the strident tone of the feature, blindly going about his business while scene after awful scene goes by. Perhaps this calm, studied commentary is an ideal representation of its creator, who's so lost in the insignificant details that he forgets to address the overall toxic execution. Tossing around words like "gold" and "relatable" during this track proves to me that King left Earth years ago. At least there's one person who finds this film culturally and emotionally significant.
"Behind the Scenes with Alicia Keys" (3:03) is a commercial for the film's soundtrack, interviewing producer Salaam Remi and Keys about their musical inspirations.
"Revisiting the '80s" (4:00) talks to the cast, King, and costume designer Patricia Field about the opening flashback sequence, returning to the disastrous fashion choices of yesteryear.
"Marry Me, Liza!" (7:52) goes behind the scenes of the gay wedding sequence, spotlighting the magic of Liza Minnelli and her triumphant star power, which provided great entertainment during those long hours on the set.
"Styling 'Sex and the City 2'" (14:51) spotlights the idiosyncratic work from idiosyncratic costume designer Patricia Field, who looks like a particularly stylish Nazgul during her interview segments. Obviously, the cast and crew reveal supreme excitement with the outfits, looking to provide some thematic reasoning during their conversations.
"So Much Can Happen in Two Years" (26:02) is a conversation between Michael Patrick King and Sarah Jessica Parker, who take over a hotel suite to chat up the making of the movie, with special emphasis on Carrie's emotional development.
"The Men of 'Sex and the City'" (28:46) opens a commercial for the DVD releases of the original series, kicking off the featurette with a sour vibe of MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! BD producers, let's save that crap for the end, OK? Otherwise, this conversation between Michael Patrick King and Mario Cantone is a straightforward bit of observation, discussing the arc of the male characters. Plenty of clips (MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!) are supplied.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
Diluted is the cosmo-fueled girl talk, the lovesick blues, and the polite haute couture bludgeoning. "Sex and the City 2" places a brick on the gas pedal and drives the franchise over a cliff, assuming what the fanbase wanted this whole time was to see their beloved series squatted down into an appallingly xenophobic drag show.