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Sex and the City 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Ugly Americans"
1 stars

In what ranks second only to the shoulda-been catchphrase “Sweet Fancy Moses!” as the single funniest line of dialogue in the history of “Seinfeld”--you know, the funny, long-running TV show about the madcap lives and loves of a quartet of New Yorkers, one character reacts to another’s latest glib comment with the immortal “You know, just when I think you’re the shallowest person I know, you somehow manage to drain a little bit more out of the pool.” I found myself thinking about that line a lot while watching “Sex and the City 2,” the second big-screen spin-off of the popular HBO show, and not just because I was grasping on to it in much the same way that a drowning man might snatch at even the flimsiest rope. Although one would think that it would be a nearly impossible task for anyone to make a film as smug, sloppily constructed and seemingly endless as its 2008 predecessor, that is exactly what has happened hear thanks to a lazy screenplay, a lazier presentation and a pointlessly extended running time that will test the patience of the show’s most dedicated fans. All it has to offer is sheer arrogance wrapped in the cinematic equivalent of an exceptionally off-putting outfit that you were suckered into buying long ago and now can’t imagine what you might have been thinking at the time when you did.

Picking up two years after the first film, “Sex and the City 2” kicks off with our heroines--sassy writer Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), slutty publicist Samantha (Kim Cattrall), sweet-natured Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and workaholic Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) facing a brand-new series of personal and professional crises to endlessly discuss over drinks in between shopping trips. Having finally married the elusive Mr. Big (Chris Noth) at the end of the previous film after their extended on-again, off-again courtship, she now worries that they may be turning into just another boring married couple--she always wants to go out on the town and eat at overpriced restaurants while he prefers to order in overpriced takeout food and loaf on the sofa--and is even willing to contemplate a suggestion of his that has them separating for two days a week for mutual me time. Now with two adorable daughters, Charlotte finds herself increasingly flustered by the demands of motherhood--it turns out that, unlike her other accessories, they actually require attention and don’t necessarily go well with vintage Valentino skirts--and by her fears that her husband (Evan Handler) may be romping in the clover of their chesty Irish nanny (Alice Eve). Miranda now finds herself more overworked than ever thanks to the demands of a monstrous new senior partner who dismisses everything she says or does, presumably because she is just a woman--it gets so bad that it looks as though she may not be able to attend her son’s second-grade science fair. As for Samantha, she has chosen to combat menopause by gobbling enough Suzanne Somers-approved nutrients to fool her body into thinking it is fifteen years younger and wearing outfits designed for people at least twice that. (The latter is something that all four of them are doing, quite frankly, though everyone is too polite to point it out in regards to the others.)

After this goes on for about an hour or so, Samantha receives an offer for her and the others to go to Abu Dhabi at the behest of a sheik who wants to do business with her. Although this might not seem to be the most promising getaway location for a group of women who enjoy broadcasting graphic details of their respective sex lives to anyone in the vicinity, the others agree and before long, they arrive at their ultra-decadent digs but not even the change in location can keep them from their respective navel-gazing activities. Charlotte, more convinced than ever that her husband and the nanny are having an affair, spends most of her time desperately trying to get them on the phone, even while astride a camel in the middle of the desert--cue the inevitable camel toe joke. Having lost all of her supplements at the airport, Samantha is forced into drastic measures to keep her menopause from coming back until a randy Brit (Max Ryan) magically appears to relight her libido in ways that aren’t generally recommended for women in Abu Dhabi. Miranda, having impulsively quit her job before the trip, has nothing much to do other than to constant cover up Samantha’s displays of bare flesh while reminding her of all the local laws and customs she is violating. As for Carrie, she is still brooding about the status of her relationship with Big when she unexpectedly runs into old flame Aidan (John Corbett) in a marketplace and eventually does something with him that she shouldn’t and is compelled to immediately confess all via transatlantic call. Even worse, her latest book, a wry and whimsical chronicle of her first year of marriage, has just been released and she is devastated to discover that she has apparently received the first vicious pan of her career, from” The New Yorker,” no less--in a move that is presumably meant to head off a good portion of the criticism that this film is sure to receive, she is assured that this is just another case of evil men trying to stifle the voices of women and is also a harsher extension of the travails that women undergo in places like Abu Dhabi on a daily basis.

The first “Sex and the City” film, you will recall, was a bizarrely bloated affair that seemed to consist entirely of maybe a half-dozen wisely discarded subplots from the original HBO series haphazardly strung into a smug contraption that ran nearly 2 ½ hours without offering any real laughs, any thoughtful insights into contemporary relationships or any characters that a sane human being would want to be left in the company of for more than two minutes. In hindsight, however, I suppose that many of the flaws of the screenplay could be explained, if not necessarily justified. After all, in the effort to write something that would convince a studio that it could make the transition from living rooms to the multiplexes, provide its four leading ladies with enough material to get them all to sign on and restart a franchise that had come to a fairly conclusive end several years earlier, writer-producer-director Michael Patrick King was trying to serve so many masters that it was no wonder that it meandered so much--the sheer effort of getting the project up and running must have be so considerable that no one had the energy to go back and make the fixes that it so desperately required. Once a sequel became an inevitability after the box-office success of the first film, I would have assumed that King would have taken the time to come up with a leaner and tighter follow-up that would have gotten to the core of what made the show such a touchstone to so many people without any of the narrative excesses of its predecessor--the same kind of thing that occurred a couple of decades earlier when the draggy but popular “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was followed by the more character-driven “The Wrath of Khan.” Instead, King seems to have gone out of his way to accentuate all of the flaws of his earlier effort by giving us a film even draggier and devoid of a point than before--things get so bad at times that it almost seems as if he is deliberately trying to create a version of his creation that conforms to everything that its detractors find objectionable to it.

Many of the problems that I have with “Sex and the City 2” are the same that I had with the original film. There is no real story to speak of--just a lot of different subplots that bounce off of each other without ever pulling together into a consistent whole. The allegedly witty quips, one-liners and bon mots are universally terrible--it seems as if everyone is competing to win first prize in the World’s Filthiest Sniglet contest. The characters are loathsome, self-absorbed, whiny, narcissistic monsters without a single redeeming bone between them (so to speak) and the actresses slink through their roles with all the intense dedication of a group of people who are being receiving enormous amounts of money for what is mostly a paid vacation and are bombing through their work as quickly as possible in order to get back to the fun stuff. The big difference this time around is that in the first film, King at least endeavored to make sure that all four of his stars had subplots of reasonably equal heft and importance in order to keep them happy and satisfied. This time around, however, Sarah Jessica Parker (who is also one of the co-producers) winds up dominating the proceedings while the others are pretty much banished to the background, dramatically speaking. This might not have been a bad idea if it resulted in a leaner, meaner final product but the film still winds up clocking in at 144 minutes, pretty long for any movie but especially for a comedy. Not only that, the scraps that the others do wind up with barely amount to anything--they are announced with great fanfare, more or less forgotten for the next couple of hours and then quickly resolved during the denouement (narrated by Parker, naturally). In the most inexplicable moment in this regard, Samantha eventually gets arrested for her sexual behavior and instead of getting the potentially amusing sight of her butting heads with the conservative police inside the station, we instead cut to Carrie sitting outside the station continuing to go on and on about her and Big even as her friend sits in jail. If I were the agent for Davis, Nixon or Cattrall, I would have been on the phone to the producers raising holy hell about my clients being marginalized as a one-time ensemble act was being transformed into a solo gig.

And what do we get instead of fully developed plotlines for the other characters. Well, there is an opening wedding sequence that lasts nearly as long as the one in “The Deer Hunter” without the compensating factor of sending all the characters off to Vietnam in the next scene. There are endless scenes of Parker modeling arrays of outfits, shoes and hairstyles that, to put it charitably, are not especially flattering to her--one of the hairdos that she sports early on is a dead ringer for the coif favored by the Predator. There are numerous scenes in which time is taken out to mention the real plight of women living in the UAE that are delivered with all the subtlety and sincerity of those PSA’s that used to appear at the end of “Superfriends” to show you how to make frozen juice treats. There is a moony-eyed butler who helps Carrie sort out her romantic problems by reminding her that “Time doesn’t matter,” a hell of a sentiment for a film running 144 minutes. There are gratuitous references to the classic film “It Happened One Night,” a film that we are supposed to believe that uber-hipster Carrie has never heard of before. Oh yes, then there are the cameo appearances that contribute little to the film beyond additional hype. Penelope Cruz pops up as a flirty bank executive who makes goo-goo eyes with Big at a party--this would be great except for the fact that she is only in the film for approximately 47 goddamn seconds. (I think she is actually in the trailer longer than she is in the actual film.) Miley Cyrus turns up as herself and while I won’t reveal the circumstances behind her appearance, I will mention that it represents yet another example of how a potentially funny bit just winds up dying before our eyes. Then there is Liza Minnelli, who turns up as herself (who else?) in order to officiate at the wedding, drop a couple of one-liners and offer up a singular rendition of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” Granted, the years have not been especially kind to her but she demonstrates more personality in her brief appearance here than the rest of the cast can collectively muster and as a result, she winds up being the closest thing to a saving grace on display here. In fact, this may be this first time since “Lucky Lady” that I walked away from a film thinking that it needed more Liza. (Of course, that didn’t exactly help “Lucky Lady” either, but I digress.

“Sex and the City 2” is artistic abdication at its worst--a useless bit of ultra-chintzy product in which all of the creativity available seems to have gone into coming up with the title. Of course, this is about the point where I am reminded that I am not the target viewer for this particular film and that I couldn’t possibly understand its appeal to female audiences, for whom it will hold the same basic place in the cultural firmament as a Stooge-a-thon does for the guys. To this, I would claim shenanigans because most of the women that I know, including the one I brought to the screening, are thoughtful and intelligent people who would be deeply offended by the notion that they were supposed to unthinkingly embrace something as cruddy and condescending as this based solely on their gender. My feeling is that they would be far more likely to go for a film like the current “Please Give,” a smart and thought-provoking works that also examines the lives, loves and shopping habits of a quartet of New Yorkers but does so with an intelligence and curiosity that this film never even tries to approximate. Unfortunately, many audiences prefer to go to movies that validate their lifestyle choices, no matter how shallow, rather than question them and it is certain that “Sex and the City 2” will be seen by more people in its opening day than “Please Give” will in its entire run. In that regard, all I can say is that if you do choose to go see the female Stooge-a-thon that is SATC2, be warned that it is pure Joe Besser era from start to finish. Actually, that is a little unfair because even at his worst, Joe Besser demonstrated a better sense of comedic flair and timing than is on display in this film, not to mention better taste in fashion.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19930&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/26/10 23:57:16
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User Comments

4/07/13 reptilesni Offensive, xenophobic, stupid. Loved the series, movie 2 is a disaster. 1 stars
6/05/11 Piz If you liked the show, you will like it...if you didn't you won't - pretty simple 3 stars
6/15/10 The Stick that Slaps Should have been called 'Whores go to Camp' 1 stars
6/05/10 M For die-hard fans only 4 stars
6/04/10 Ronald Holst if you nlike putting women back 60 years you will love this > 2 stars
6/04/10 Monster W. Kung Ahahahahaha... no. 1 stars
6/02/10 Luisa Disappointing, boring, shallow. Carrie needs to get her a-- in the kitchen and cook! 1 stars
6/01/10 Cat Smith Witless and boring. Insulting to women with a brain. Please don't make another. 1 stars
6/01/10 Louise A few silly bits but overall great fun. I laughed a lot! 4 stars
5/30/10 Lenore Francois Mediocre. Would have been better with less cheesy, meaningless scenes. 3 stars
5/29/10 Jeronimus Bosch Cunt crap! 1 stars
5/28/10 John Duncan Insulting and a total waste of time! 1 stars
5/27/10 Phub Tenzin I really enjoyed this movie....... 5 stars
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  27-May-2010 (R)
  DVD: 26-Oct-2010


  DVD: 26-Oct-2010

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