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Desert storm: Sex and the City 2

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Parents, lock up your fanboys! Yes, the ladies of the Sex and the City franchise are back to once again strike terror in the heart of any male moviegoer who steadfastly believes that cinema was only created to serve those folks sporting a Y chromosome. Admittedly, annoying these computer trolls sounds like reason enough to give Sex and the City 2 a hearty recommendation, but the truth of the matter is that this follow-up to the 2008 smash (itself based on the hit HBO series) doesn't quite measure up.

As I wrote in my review of the first film, "Sex and the City works because its ability to mix real-world issues with reel-world fantasies interestingly provides it with both gravity and buoyancy." In SATC2, only half of the equation really works. That would be the dramatic side, represented by those sequences in which the principals cope with issues that resonate beyond the screen. For starters, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are pleased to finally be married but also quickly realize that compromises need to be made for both their sakes -- e.g. Carrie desires to spend some nights out on the town while Big is content to eat take-out and pass the evenings on the couch. And then there's Charlotte (Kristin Davis), whose constantly shrieking kid would fray anyone's nerves; in one of the film's best scenes, she and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) confide in each other the sorts of thoughts that parents frequently entertain but usually don't dare to say out loud.

Moments such as these prove to be so affecting and sometimes even insightful that it's a shame the film's more lighthearted elements turn out to be so ham-fisted. Some bits are excusable: Many male moviegoers will take offense at the sight of hunky men's penises bulging under Speedos, but how is this female-oriented eye candy any different than, say, Megan Fox letting her breasts do her acting for her in that accursed Transformers sequel? But a major plot point takes the foursome out of New York for a trip to the United Arab Emirates, and while the thought of these liberated ladies confronting Middle Eastern misogynists sounds tantalizing on paper, clumsy writing strips the material of any import. And it's not just the plotting that's below par: This lengthy segment of the film also produces some atrocious quips that cause the ears to bleed. "Abu Dhabi Doo!" and "I'm having a mid-wife crisis" are bad enough, but the nadir is easily when Samantha (Kim Cattrall, here forced to endure various humiliations) meets a hunky Australian in the desert and moans, "Lawrence of my labia!" If that doesn't have Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean spinning around in his grave at mach speed, nothing will.

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