Remember how “Sesame Street” episodes used to be sponsored by specific letters of the alphabet? Well, Michael Patrick King’s inevitable Sex and the City sequel has been brought to us by the letter “M.”
First and foremost, there’s Minnelli. As in Liza, goddess of the gay community, who kicks off these feature-length festivities in otherworldly fashion by marrying series regulars Anthony (Mario Cantone) and Stanford (Willie Garson) in a suitably extravagant wedding, then serenading them with Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” It’s a surreal smorgasbord of retro kitsch and pop-culture impudence, an absurdist piece of performance art that, at the very least, starts the sequel with an unpredictable bang.
Had the film been able to maintain this cheeky absurdity, Sex and the City 2 might have been something special. But gradually, the film settles into an admittedly stylish rut as other “M” words take charge.
There’s the “malaise” felt by married couple Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth). Two years into wedded bliss, she remains the socially active, self-centered gal about town, while he’s more than content to spend their evenings on the designer couch. Uptight mommy Charlotte (Kristin Davis), meanwhile, frets over husband Harry’s (Evan Handler) ability to stay “monogamous,” particularly after Samantha (Kim Cattrall) points out the “massive mammaries” on their beautiful, blonde nanny (Alice Eve). As for the oversexed cougar of the bunch, she’s dealing with “menopause,” and thinks an all-expenses-paid trip to the “Middle East” will cure what’s ailing the ladies made famous in the girl-friendly HBO series.
The largest “M” adjective reserved for the second Sex, sadly, is “mediocrity.” That’s not to say that any expense has been spared: The sequel carries a gloss which justifies the expanse of the silver screen. Writer-director King, a longtime Sex writer who also helmed the hugely successful first film, understands what makes these caricatures tick, and he dutifully paces his storytelling beats to the metronomed clicks of Christian Louboutin high-heeled shoes against Manhattan’s concrete pavements.
Sex and the City 2 runs approximately the same length as the first film — that is to say, an excessive 150 minutes — yet it can’t seem to find time for any genuine emotion or a compelling storyline. Legitimate relationship drama has been replaced by artificial melodrama this time out. There’s less heartfelt conflict, but more Middle Eastern bling. And while the four actresses are as comfortable as expected in the roles they defined, King gives them little material with which to work. Cynthia Nixon, especially, is relegated to window dressing as her Miranda is reduced to covering up the audacious Samantha before the conservative Muslim citizens of Abu Dhabi stone her to death.
The rest of you might be bored to death. The summer of 2010 has allowed — and will continue to allow — audiences the opportunity to spend additional time with fictional characters we’ve grown accustomed to, whether it be the jolly green ogre Shrek or the animated playthings in Pixar’s beloved Toy Story franchise. After six full seasons and one feature-length film, I personally am not compelled to hang around Carrie Bradshaw and her crew any longer, though. Particularly if — as this sequel suggests — King has run out of interesting things to say about them.