The girls are back in town

30 May 2010 - 02:00 By Barry Ronge

The houris in high heels have a PC point to make

Sex and the City 2

  • Director: Michael Patrick King
  • Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon.
  • Running time: 146 min
  • Age restriction: PG-13 SL

Their wardrobes remain extensive - and expensive - and their banter is as witty, sexy and bitchy as it ever was. That, in itself, will ensure that the female demographic will flock to see Sex and the City 2 , in droves.

Nonetheless, when a film about sophisticated New York women must resort to exhuming an old boyfriend for Carrie, you have to wonder whether they had enough original ideas with which to work.

It's been 12 years since the Sex and the City TV series made its debut, and two years since the first feature film based on that series was made. Now the four women who starred in those two vastly popular works are back in a very different setting, namely the Middle East, with Morocco standing in for Abu Dhabi, where much of this story plays out.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is hired to do public relations work for an Arab sheik, to promote his business enterprise. One of the perks of this lush new job is an invitation for Carrie to host her three best friends - Samantha (Kim Catrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) - in luxurious hotels and restaurants.

It soon becomes obvious that all these women are very much in need of a break from their day-to-day lives. Carrie is married to Mr Big (Chris Noth) but, while she still wants to play in New York's glamorous high life, he has become a couch potato, obsessed with watching old movies on TV.

The other three women have also slipped into some kind of rut and they are questioning the choices they made. An exotic, opulent getaway seems like exactly the right thing to remind them of the pleasures of their adventurous youth.

But the scriptwriter, Michael Patrick King, who wrote and directed the previous film and many of the episodes in the series, throws in a curve ball. In a silk market in Abu Dhabi, Carrie meets the original love of her life Aidan (John Corbett).

Their nostalgic meeting makes Carrie reconsider whether the single life is not genuinely a wiser and more interesting lifestyle than wedded bliss, which has turned out to be harder and less interesting than she imagined.

You will remember that Mr Big jilted Carrie in the previous film, but they sorted out their respective commitment anxieties, and eventually tied the knot. Now Carrie wonders if that knot has become too tight, and she longs for what she considers to be her "lost freedom".

Carrie's story is the dominant theme, with the stories of the other three women reinforcing similar issues about personal space, independence and monogamous relationships.

The stories could have made for a tough, fascinating drama, but that's not the style of Sex and the City and it's certainly not what the die-hard fans want to see.

So we are treated to amusing, flashy moments when Samantha meets a team of male Australian swimmers wearing nothing but skimpy Speedos. Another nifty show stopper is a lavish gay wedding, at which an ageing diva belts out a Beyoncé song, and creates a fun, high-camp cabaret moment.

It is also quite surprising, in these sensitive times, to see what could be quite a risky, possibly insulting, statement on the status of women in the Muslim world. In the US no one would blink an eye, but there are a few moments in the film in which the characters let off steam about the status of women in Islam, with Cattrall challenging a group of Arab men with her intensely liberal views on her sexual rights.

To place that little PC rant in the sexiest and most frivolous comedy of the year so far seems, at the very least, a little odd - and for some people, downright offensive. There's another scene in which the American women get involved with a group of Arab women with an unexpected outcome that might also raise some eyebrows.

There are also a couple of starry cameo performances (which I will not spoil for you).

Eventually, though, in a movie that runs over two hours, you can't help feeling that this franchise has run out of viable story lines. Instead, they rely on a string of "Wow!" moments to conceal the skimpiness of the script, which delivers one wisecrack too many, and one fabulous frock too far.

But that's a male point of view, and we all know what women think of them.