Some films are considered critic-proof: in other words, they’re going to succeed no matter what anyone says. Sex and the City 2 is a prime example. I presume that the huge, mostly female crowds that rushed to see the first feature-length adaptation of Darren Star’s racy TV series two years ago will be back in equal force for this followup, even though, like so many sequels, it isn’t as good.
I imagine what matters most to the movie’s target audience is simply spending “quality time” with the leading characters, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon, and reveling in their wish-fulfillment world of perfect living spaces, stylish clothes and jewelry, and (in this case) a trip to an eye-popping luxury hotel in the Middle East.
If that’s all that matters to you, this movie certainly—
—gives you your money’s worth—for almost two and a half hours. The women inhabit their characters extremely well, only now (in a story set two years after the last picture) three of them are happily married, and two of them have children. The one “single girl” who remains (Cattrall) is as libidinous as ever, and usually gets what she’s after, right up to and including a shot that’s as close to pornography as anything I’ve ever seen in a mainstream movie.
Because the others are essentially happy and settled, it’s the job of writer-director Michael Patrick King to invent crises for them, and find ways to blow the little ones out of proportion. But because this film is so episodic (and—did I mention?—long) there’s plenty of time for subplots and sidetrips, comedy-relief episodes, musical moments (including an appearance by Liza Minnelli), and some serious, even poignant moments that underscore what a movie like this could be if it weren’t all over the map.
I don’t think anyone is meant to take the film too seriously. If one did, one could take offense at any number of ingredients, from the relentless superficiality of its leading ladies to the portrayal of Middle Eastern women. But the film prevails because there are just enough points of identification—with the harried women who are trying to cope with motherhood, and Parker’s attempts to keep a little zing in the relationship with her all-too-comfortable husband—to make Sex and the City 2 resonate with its audience.
I never watched the HBO series that debuted in 1998, so I can’t compare this movie to its source material—only the 2008 feature, which I enjoyed. This one has less structure and momentum, which is true of so many market-driven movie sequels, but it does keep its central characters alive, and in the spotlight; that seems to be its primary reason for being.