"Sex 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; 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 half-heartedness of Carrie's emotional climax should prove that there's no life left in this franchise) 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 15 minutes.
The characters are hatefully selfish and self-absorbed, 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.