Review - Sex and the City 2 (**1/2)

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Sex and the City 2.  147 mins.  R.  Written and Directed by Michael Patrick King.  Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, John Corbett, and Chris Noth.

I went into this movie with claws out, ready to hate it.  And often times, I came close.  There's no word to describe it other than "minefield."  Because for every little thing it gets right, there's something annoying (a pun ("Bedoin, Bath & Beyond", "Lawrence of My Labia") or a certain character's actions) just a step away that threatens to destroy the entire movie.  Yet, (the imaginatively titled) Sex and the City 2 was no chore to sit through.  It works to a degree as vacation/lifestyle porn.  Do I want to go to Abu Dhabi and stay in a $22,000/night hotel?  Yes - that looks awesome.  Do I want to live in Carrie and Big's lavishly furnished Manhattan condo?  Yes, please.  Do I want to hire Charlotte's live-in nanny (She's Out of My League's Alice Eve, braless and often wet)?  Double yes.  I want all of these things, and will likely never get them, so I guess watching Sex and the City 2 will have to do.
Having seen all six seasons of the show, as well as the first movie in the series, there is also a certain familiarity and comfort in watching this sequel.  Critics have been tearing it apart, and I can easily see why, but I'm guessing most of them are males who never watched the show and have no frame of reference.  I will give them this though: the four ladies in this movie are a far cry from the layered, thee-dimensional characters seen on the show.  Carrie (Parker), Miranda (Nixon), Charlotte (Davis), and Samantha (Cattrall) are basically one-note cartoons now, rendered ridiculous and unrelatable thanks to an over-abundance of extreme fashion, privileged entitlement, cultural insensitivity, and a seemingly endless supply of money in an economy that has none. 
Since the first movie tied up everyone's story in a neat little bow, there's really nothing left to dramatically explore here, so the writer-director, and series showrunner, Michael Patrick King stuffs the movie with 2.5 hours of what is essentially filler.  Again - 2.5 hours!  Why?  This is not Lord of the Rings, Mr. King.  Yet, he fills the screen with such shiny, extravagant things that you can't help but be distracted from the lame jokes and the story just spinning its wheels.  It doesn't bode well that the biggest drama King can manufacture is a Carrie-Big fight over a television in the bedroom and Carrie's stolen kiss from long-forgotten Aidan (John Corbett, enjoying his paid trip overseas) after seeing him at a souk in Abu Dhabi.
Miranda is the only character who comes off well in this movie.  Carrie is a whine, Samantha embarrassingly mocks the Arab culture, and Charlotte pretends to have it rough raising two kids despite the fact that she doesn't work and has a live-in nanny.  If it wasn't for my built-in fondness for the show, I'd probably hate these characters as much as the other critics do.  And don't even mention the guys.  Other than Big (Noth) - they're almost a non-entity in this movie. 
Not unlike last year's equally awful though easily watchable Couples Retreat, Sex and the City 2 offers moviegoers an escape - a vacation away from home - and for that reason, despite its many flaws, the movie does its job.  But don't get too comfortable - a land mine is right around the corner!

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