“Sex and the City 2” – For Whom the Belles Appeal

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By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

“Sex and the City 2” is a confounding kettle of contradictions. Every ounce of your being knows full well its glamorized pap. And yet, I’d like a dollar for every viewer with a doctorate in this or that who is gleefully willing to give director Michael Patrick King’s glittering fantasy jaunt complete dispensation. Incomprehensible to us, it speaks to them.

While the criticism of art isn’t subject to the dictums of political correctness, one doesn’t wish to cast aspersions about taste when the battle lines seem so personally drawn. Why, some of my best friends will doubtlessly like this second big screen incarnation of the popular TV series. I mean, we can’t amuse ourselves by Eugene O’Neill alone.

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This preamble of tolerance respectfully submitted, I will add that the movie’s two hours plus isn’t as boring as it is challenging to the detractor. Foolishly trying to make lemonade out of lemons, the scientific naysayer hopes that, if he can discern what it is that makes the picture so enthralling to some, it will unlock the secret of the genders.

But it’s no dice, Dr. Freud. Watching in awe as the four best friends avail themselves of a junket to Abu Dhabi courtesy of a grateful sheik’s goodwill gesture to P.R. wiz Samantha (Kim Cattrall), we lose our bearings in the whimsy of excess. Each gal gets her own chauffeur-driven Maybach (top-o-the-line Mercedes Benz), butler and luxury suite.

Gee, I feel like such a piker. All I rustled up on the last momentous occasion was a heartfelt bauble and some flowers. The ostentation is a reverse on the ploy Hugh Hefner engineered just prior to the dawn of Women’s Lib: Bring your lady fair to the Playboy Club, where the world’s most beautiful damsels would offer some perspective.

That humbling aside, there’s a plot here. Each lass is saddled with some emotional baggage she hopes to shed amidst the opulence of her comped surroundings. So as they ooh and aah at the courtesies and gewgaws supplied along with their $22K-a-night hotel room, we itemize what must be product placements, right down to the country itself.

But then a late twist in the doings, probably intended to give the story some gravity and conscience, has us second-guessing this big-ticket variation on “The Price is Right.”  Not since “The Women” (1939) have social lessons been delivered by such a well-dressed class of women. But then, who says morality can’t be haute couture?

Meanwhile, we’re also supposed to care about their woes. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), aside from being unappreciated at the law firm where she plies her skills practically 24/7, has the in absentia mom blues. Whereas sensible Charlotte York, portrayed by Kristin Davis, feels guilty about wanting some time off from the shrieks of her colicky offspring.

Samantha, the senior member of the gang, delights in shocking one and all with daily updates on the feminine wars she boisterously fights on two fronts. A warehouse of hormones and ointments, she wrestles menopause with vixenish authority. The rest of her id, when she’s not serving as best pal, is devoted to pleasing a rather liberated libido.

And then there’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie, the tacitly acknowledged jewel in the diadem. Her beef? She wants it all. Already a noted author with a fabulous N.Y.C. abode, she’s lassoed the love of her life in Mr. Big (Chris Noth). But uh, oh. Her older Prince Charming is a bit of a homebody, and she fears the sparkle will dwindle from their union.

So hope springs eternal with the new venue and its expectantly curative powers. And if not, at least they can bury their heads in the sumptuous sand castles for a bit. Figure on the usual hijinks, epiphanies and flirtations, especially where Samantha is concerned. Of course you can set your sundial by how long it’ll be before someone falls off a camel.

But, oh my, the splendor and riches. All that’s missing is a golden calf to worship…that is, before the film’s aforementioned, radical change in nature has us all scratching our heads. Without giving too much away, suffice it to note that all the bravado and shameless overindulgence simmers into a rather traditional fable.

In all fairness, the vicarious thrill of intrigue and treasure is but the decorative icing on what truly endears this unabashed chick flick to its defenders. And that’s friendship, tried and true and without qualification. Hence, like that one friend we all have who others just can’t tolerate for the love of them, “Sex and the City 2” obviously satisfies a need.

“Sex and the City 2,” rated R, is a Warner Bros. Pictures release directed by Michael Patrick King and stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis. Running time: 146 minutes


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