The sequel to Sex and the City is one franchise film that gives women what they want: This time the men are in the background, and women's friendships and fantasies are where it's at.
With two years of marriage under her designer belt, Carrie Bradshaw-Preston is concerned that she and Big are turning into a boring old married couple. By her own admission, they're somewhere between wild, hot sex and making a baby. Big's content to stay at home and watch old movies, but curling up in front of the flat-screen is hardly his fashionista's idea of a good time: Marriage hasn't tamed Carrie's desire to walk the red carpet in a designer dress.
Meanwhile, the ever-sexual Samantha is leading the way through the menopause maze with a hormone cocktail of pills and potions, not to mention a few new positions. The overachieving Miranda? Still the same old workaholic, but now she's got a boorish bully for a senior partner. Finally, there's the lovely Charlotte. She seems to have gotten everything she ever wanted, but motherhood is making her come unhinged. She was so busy hiring her new Irish nanny that she failed to realize the lassie is a braless wonder -- who might just have eyes for her employer's man.
As the movie begins, the gal pals rendezvous for the gay-fabulous wedding of Stanford and Anthony. It's a baroque musical extravaganza complete with Liza Minnelli as the mistress of ceremonies, and it sets the tone for the film's campy adventures and motion-picture parodies, wherein everybody is playing along with the inside jokes. (Cost of making SATC 2? Umpteen millions. Having Minnelli perform "Single Ladies"? Priceless.)
Just when the women are coming down from the nuptial bliss and starting to lament the stress of "having it all," along comes one Sheik Khalid, who invites Samantha to do public relations for his majestic hotels: "One week in Abu Dhabi," as the trailers have been putting it excitedly, "all expenses paid." The royal holiday takes our four liberated heroines to the "new" Middle East, setting in motion a comedy of manners complete with many an Islamic caricature and cross-cultural faux pas. In fact, SATC 2 barely escapes stereotyping Abu Dhabi as exotic, mysterious and sexually repressive; one more step and it could have become an Abbott and Costello flying-carpet comedy. It's Western haute-couture meets the burqini -- but with a few surprises.
You don't have to be a fan of Sex and the City to appreciate the kitsch humor here. Part TV-series sequel, part Hollywood sendup, SATC 2 is all satire. It's hard to miss that this film is making gentle fun of itself, of the franchise's materialism, even of its own cinematic allusions. A romp through classical Hollywood genres, SATC 2 serves up beautiful vistas straight out of Lawrence of Arabia; its carnivalesque sensibility comes from romantic comedies of remarriage like It Happened One Night, and larks about irreverently adoring couples like The Thin Man's Nick and Nora Charles; and the high glamour, lavish production design and double-entendre-laced dialogue would make old Hollywood proud.
And, of course, this latest outing is bound to entertain the true fans -- legions of them -- for whom the central players (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall) do a decent job of reviving the sense of silly sisterhood always shared by its core sorority. Who knows? Maybe we'll see more of these ladies in the future. If Carrie and Big decide to try their hands at parenthood, the next Bringing Up Baby might have, you know, an actual kid in it -- a child festooned, no doubt, in the latest fashions.