Based on Candace Bushnell's book, and adapted for the small screen by Darren Star, 'Sex and the City' was a popular, award-winning HBO series that aired from 1998 until 2004. Sarah Jessica Parker starred as Carrie Bradshaw, a thirty-something New York City columnist who documented her dating life and that of her three friends: marriage-minded Charlotte (Kristi Davis), career-minded Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and sex-minded Samantha (Kim Cattrall). A major component of the series' success was its realistic portrayal of the women and their experiences. This aspect sharply contrasted with most other comic series and was not only appreciated by its female audience but by men who enjoyed quality writing as well.
The series concluded like so few do: going out while still delivering a quality program, as opposed to churning out substandard material to wring every last dollar from the franchise while the brand name still drew an audience like [Insert any number of television series here].
The gang returned in 2008 with a theatrical movie that continued the stories of the four ladies, (spoiler) most notably with Carrie marrying Big (Chris Noth), and Charlotte and Harry (Evan Handler) having a baby. Given a $65 million budget, 'Sex and the City: The Movie' earned over $400 million just from the worldwide box office; a sequel was guaranteed.
Alas, while the series knew to leave on a high note, the second film in the series isn'tquite sograceful.
Writer/director/producer Michael Patrick King's 'Sex and the City 2' opens as the ladies gather at the biggest wedding of all time, the nuptials between Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone), Carrie and Charlotte's gay best friends, respectively. The event is ridiculously over the top, even before Liza Minnelli appears to perform the ceremony and a cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)". Having a bigger budget, increased by about 50 percent, it's clear King wanted to make a bigger movie, but this was not the best way to go about it since instantly, their world no longer seems grounded in realism.
However, there are some nice, small moments within the sequence that help set the stage for what the characters will be dealing with in terms of traditional expectations versus individual desires. Carrie and Big reveal they aren't having kids and the idea of a future limited to the two of them at home together watching TV causes her some anxiety. When Carrie spends a couple of nights away to work on an article for Vanity Fair, Big suggests they make it a regular occurrence. This bothers her as well.
As for the other ladies, Charlotte's youngest is in her terrible two's and is very fussy, except when the young nanny, Erin (Alice Eve), calms her. Not only do the children cause Charlotte stress, so does the very sexy "Erin Go Braless," as Samantha dubs her. In one scene, Erin's perfect breasts are shown bouncing around in slow motion, and in another they're revealed through a wet t-shirt while bathing the baby. Charlotte's husband Harry seems to enjoy both occurrences (as will male viewers).
Meanwhile, Miranda must deal with a new male partner at her law firm who doesn't think much of her, giving her character the least amount of conflict, and one that is resolved rather easily.
King disappointingly has Samantha at her most cartoonish in this installment. Being obsessed with her age and trying to stave off the inevitable makes sense, but a lot of her other behavior doesn't. She's a successful professional woman! She wouldn't sit in her glass-walled office with her panties down applying ointments. She wouldn't risk losing a lucrative job or going to jail for behaving sexually aggressive in a front of others in a Middle Eastern country.
The plot is pretty simple, in short order all four ladies soon depart for Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, when Samantha finagles an all-expense paid trip from an Arab businessman, who would like her to do some PR work for him. The creative team pulls out all the stops in terms of lavishness in this portion of the film. The ladies are each given a separate car and driver. The hotel is quite an amazing spectacle. And costume designer Patricia Field goes all out in dressing the women. Even as bad as the film is, I wouldn't be surprised if it earned some award recognition for the work on display here.
But the film's downfall flaw is in the writing. While in Abu Dhabi, Carrie unbelievably runs into former boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett), who she hadn’t seen in years, at a street market. They quickly meet for dinner and share a passionate kiss, which she considers telling Big about it. She also misplaces her passport at the market, but it's done in such an obvious manner it's hard to believe the character didn’t notice it. Samantha almost gets arrested for her sexual behavior and the ladies get their free ride cut off. Aside from the fact that they might lose out on flying first class, they flee the country without checking if there's another hotel they could stay at. There's a nice moment towards the end when women of different cultures show themselves to be kindred spirits, but other culture clashes are poorly executed, such as Samantha screaming at a bunch of Arab men about her sex life.
Unfortunately, the first film's success contributed to 'Sex and the City 2's downfall, as King appears to have been given free reign and churns out sub-substandard material, creating a bloated, decidely unsexy mess. You might call this "The Emperor's New Designer Clothes." The film is about the same length as the previous one, but it seems sooooo much longer.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Brothers brings 'Sex and the City 2' to high-definition on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue ecocase. It is paired with a DVD that contains just the movie and the digital copy. There are two ads before the menu pops up, one is an anti-smoking ad and the other is for Digital Copy. The Blu-ray is region-free.
Warner Brothers presents the video with a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The image shows good contrast in the opening wedding sequence, as almost everything is black and white. Here and throughout, blacks are deep and strong. The clothing demonstrates the strengths of the transfer. Both the wide array of colors and the fine detail and textures are well rendered.
While there is good depth in the long shots, there is occasionally some softness, usually involving close-ups of the ladies, which leads me to believe it's inherent in the source (Vaseline lenses in their contract stipulations perhaps?). Having not seen the film in theaters, I don't know where this issue stems from, but there seems to be an inordinate amount of blue and orange about, which didn’t exist in the series prior. At first, I thought there were problems with consistent skin tones, but it appears the actors tanned at different times during the production from the tan lines evident. While artifact free for the most part, the design of Charlotte's red and white dress when she arrives causes aliasing.
The DTS-HD Master Audio was adequate though not overly impressive. It offers a front-heavy mix with a limited dynamic range. The dialogue is consistently clear. Scenes with large crowds offer the most ambiance, such as the wedding and some Abu street scenes. The music selections make the best use of the surrounds and bass, though there are times when the bottom end causes distortion in the mix. Aside from the off-moments, the elements blend well together.
Hopefully, this isn't the last adventure with the ladies. They went out on a high note with the previous film, so it would be too bad if this were the last thing we have to remember them by. Coming from a fan of the series, I find this sequel is best forgotten, like a very bad date. The amount of time spent on this movie would be better spent with any six episodes from the series. If you liked the movie, then you'll enjoy the presentation that it receives, otherwise, this is one to avoid.