Sex and the City 2

(2010) * R
147 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Michael Patrick King. Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Christopher Noth, John Corbett.

/content/films/3756/1.jpgSex and the City is back and, with it, Carrie Bradshaw, the erstwhile archetypal upscale single girl who once upon a time took Manhattan and refused to give it back. Now married to her dream man “Mr. Big,” Carrie is ruefully navigating what she calls the “The Terrible Twos” of her marriage. It’s a phrase that will echo through your mind throughout the even more terrible Sex and the City 2.

Freelance Vogue columnist Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has just dropped her latest book, a marital reflection called “I Do! Do I?” (is it still existentialism if you try to fill the void with Dior?), but not even marriage can break apart that old gang of hers: perky Charlotte (Kristin Davis), whose latest eye-bugging neurosis centers on the fear that her nanny’s bountiful, braless bosom will lead her husband astray; high-powered lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), who faces a career crossroads; and “joy of sex”ually ravenous Samantha (Kim Cattrall), a cougar back on the prowl (hot flashes notwithstanding).

But before you break into a chorus of “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here” (or, as the gals do at karaoke, a full-length rendition of “I Am Woman”—oh, how I wish I were kidding), keep in mind that Sex and the City 2 is the big-screen equivalent of the hoary sitcom fallback: the very special vacation movie! Since wrapping up its life as an HBO half-hour, Sex and the City has made its best bid to become a big-screen franchise, though it turns out there’s little story left to tell when three of the four friends are married. Hence, our heroes abscond to Abu Dhabi on an all-expenses-paid consumptive obscenity masquerading as a business trip.

I’m still not sure if writer-director Michael Patrick King intended for his audience to laugh at or with his fab foursome as they refresh the stereotype of the “ugly American” abroad while spewing the lowest form of the lowest form of humor (vomitous puns like “bedouin, bath and beyond!”). It probably goes without saying that the film’s depiction of life in Abu Dhabi is offensively cartoonish and exploitative while feigning feminist solidarity for burqa-clad sistahs who (bizarrely) under-dress the latest New York fashions while Carrie flaunts them (she explores a street market wearing a “J’Adore Dior” T-shirt and a billowy taffeta skirt).

At 147 minutes, Sex and the City 2 is unspeakably long, so there’s plenty of space to fill with non-events (the old-hat half-heartedness of Carrie’s emotional climax should prove, once and for all, that there’s no life left in this franchise), costume changes, and mind-numbing voice-over narration and dialogue—if this is escapism, lock me up. (Okay, Liza Minnelli can still get her motor going, but she’s gone after the first fifteen minutes.)

The characters are hatefully selfish, self-absorbed (Charlotte has a parental meltdown with her young daughter that qualifies as emotional abuse and involves the line “It’s the cream Valentino!”), and happy to pimp for our most soulless instincts as Americans. “This [expletive deleted] economy,” Samantha sputters. “We need to go somewhere rich!” After two and a half hours, I’d settle for somewhere not bankrupt.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 10/26/2010

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Sex and the City 2 arrives on Blu-ray in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack carrying a decent hi-def transfer that emphasizes the film's overheated color. There's nothing muted about the hues here, which skew skin tones into unnatural shades, but it's part of the film's presumable appeal to be "colorful." Detail and texture are both strong, and digital artifacting doesn't rear its ugly head: certainly the film looks far better in hi-def than it possibly could on DVD. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix ably recreates the theatrical experience, with potent music cues and immersive directionality from the ambient effects.

Sex and the City fans should go gaga for the bonus features in this package, beginning with commentary with director Michael Patrick King, who does his best to make his choices sound more thoughtful and admirable than they are.

Sex and the City 2 Soundtrack: Behind the Scenes with Alicia Keys” (3:03, SD) is a swift look at the album's making, with Keys and her producer.

Like the commentary, the mutual love fest “So Much Can Happen in Two Years: A Conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker and director Michael Patrick King” (26:02, HD) enthusiastically praises the film's direction and acting. Though arguably unbearable, it's a nifty attempt. It's nice to see a director and star sit down for a half-hour chat about their film: just maybe not so much this film.

“Styling Sex and the City 2 (14:51, HD) examines the film's fashions, using interviews with costume designer Patricia Field, King, Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and producer John Melfi.

“Marry Me, Liza!” (7:52, HD) allows King, Parker, Nixon, Davis, Cattrall, Mario Cantone, Willie Garson, Melfi, to gush over Liza Minnelli, who also shows up to comment on her appearance; we also see (but don't hear) Minnelli singing a song to the crew after wrapping her scene.

“Revisiting the ‘80s” (4:00, HD) finds King, Davis, Cattrall, Field discussing the decade that was.

“The Men of Sex and the City (28:46, HD) will be a fan fave, as King and Cantone sit down for a clip-filled retrospective (including trivia quiz) of the series' many boyfriends.

Lastly, the disc is BD-Live enabled for additional online content.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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