Two years ago I learned a very important lesson. After giving the original “Sex and the City” movie a so-so review I was deluged with hate mail. My favorite letter suggested I “shut my damn manhole,” and never speak of the show or the movie again. What did I learn? I learned that you must never mess with Miranda, Charlotte, Carrie and Samantha. Too bad series creator and “Sex and the City 2” director Michael Patrick King hasn’t learned the same thing.
Since the last movie Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) have settled into the comfortable life of ordering in food from fancy restaurants instead of getting dolled up and eating out in fancy restaurants five nights a week. She misses their old glamorous life, he likes putting his feet up on the coach and watching television in bed. Meanwhile gal pals Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) are respectively, gulping down pre menopausal hormones, struggling to find a balance between work and child rearing and fretting that a busty nanny (Alice Eve) is attracting too much attention around the house. Their carefully manicured lives are fraying ever so slightly at the edges so what do they do? They head off for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate of course!
As I watched “SatC 2” the phrase “leave well enough alone” came to mind. On television Miranda, Charlotte, Carrie and Samantha became icons; cutting edge characters with verve, style and chutzpah. In the movies, however, it seems like they have been blunted. They still have style—the first obligatory Louboutin shot happens about sixty seconds in—but the verve and chutzpah seems forced. Michael Patrick King has allowed these once-upon-a-time titans of female empowerment to be trivialized. In other words he has messed with what made the show great. Whatever “SatC” is now, it is a much different thing than the television show.
There are flashes of the old magic every now and again. The iconic shot from Carrie’s old Upper East Side brownstone window to Big’s limo parked down below is a reminder of the good times and the quartet has undeniable chemistry. So when King allows the characters to be true to themselves the movie works, but a 146 minute movie needs more than flashes.
It’s hard to know exactly when “SatC 2” nukes the fridge (apparently the term “jump the shark” has jumped the shark). Perhaps it’s when Miley Cyrus shows up wearing the same dress as Samantha. Perhaps it’s during the intolerably bad “I Am Woman” karaoke scene, which is meant to be a grrl power anthem, but frankly, is just embarrassing. Or perhaps it is when the movie leaves its NYC home base and becomes the culturally insensitive “Carrie of Arabia.”
Whenever it is that it goes wrong, and believe me, it does go wrong, it probably won’t matter much to “SatC” fans. The audience I saw it with treated the movie as an interactive experience, commenting on the clothes, the relationships and the plot revelations as if they were enjoying a Cosmo with the girls at Buddakan.
Fans have a real life loyalty to these characters that isn’t dissimilar to the bond the fictional Miranda, Charlotte, Carrie and Samantha share. I guess that’s what it means to be friends, you stick with them during good times and bad, but in “Sex and the City 2” there are more bad times than good.