Sloppy seconds


SEX AND THE CITY 2: Directed by Michael Patrick King. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, John Corbett 15A cert, gen release, 146 min

Thought the first film was bad? This sequel is even more objectionable, writes DONALD CLARKE

THE SECOND Sex and the Cityfilm is, of course, atrocious. Vulgar, reactionary, lazy, puerile, racist, smutty, sluggish: it seems intent on exhausting the viewer’s lexicon of pejorative adjectives. Still, you couldn’t say that it doesn’t acknowledge the great traditions of the TV spin-off. As Are You Being Served?demonstrated in 1977 the best strategy for such a big-screen project is to send the cast on holiday. Hold on to your handbags. The girls are off to Abu Dhabi.

Come to think of it, the franchise increasingly resembles that popular situation comedy. The copious puns in the first film fairly made the blood curdle, but, in comparison with those on display here, they played like the work of Ben Johnson.

“I’ve only been on holiday 10 minutes and already I’ve got a date,” Kim Cattrall, back as the lascivious Samantha, says while tucking into some succulent middle-eastern fruit. Here comes the Australian rugby team. Will Samantha make a joke about balls? Just try and stop her.

More poignantly, the four principal characters – sexy Samantha, anal Charlotte, ambitious Miranda, neurotic Carrie – are beginning to suggest the frustrated Mrs Slocombe. I make no comments on their appearance, but, like Molly Sugden’s grumpy widow, they all seem increasingly embittered at the cards life has dealt them.

Carrie, played by an uninterested Sarah Jessica Parker, is snapping unreasonably at her patient husband. Cattrall is going through a comedy version of the menopause. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) fears her Irish nanny (more anon) might seduce the father of her children. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) hates her job.

You knew it would happen. The socially conservative TV series, despite its decadent turns, may have been primarily concerned with propelling its subjects towards the bourgeois, settled existence, but it always seemed likely that the single years would remain the happiest period of the cabal’s trivial lives. Who thought Sex and the City2 would be so bleeding miserable? At any rate, the gang’s solution to their torpor is to make for Abu Dhabi.

Here, after a reasonably harmless opening, featuring a weird turn by a poorly embalmed Liza Minnelli, this absurdly long film – two-and-a-half deadly hours – starts to turn properly dubious. The tourist corner of the Emirate is, you see, everything the team really wants New York to be. As in the American city, the opportunities for obscene consumption are endless.

Unlike New York, however, Abu Dhabi allows complete isolation from the yellowed eyes of the undeserving poor. It is, on this evidence, an awful, awful paradise.

The shamelessness of the enterprise appears to suggest that the (largely male) film-makers are impervious to criticism. Listen carefully, however, and you will detect a degree of defensiveness. When the four musketeers launch into a version of I Am Woman, they appear to be suggesting that any disapproval of their characters constitutes disapproval of the entire gender.

“American men pretend they like strong women, but they don’t,” Miranda says. This may well be true, but the unsubtle subsidiary implication – that the negative reviews of SATCare a reaction against powerful female role models – is, among other outrages, deeply offensive to the many female writers who see the franchise as a betrayal of feminism’s most significant advances.

Any pretence that the creators have even a cursory understanding of gender politics vanishes when Carrie and company encounter a party of Emirate women in traditional dress. They remove their abayas and everyone concerned comes to a happy realisation. Why, look at what the Arab ladies are wearing underneath. This just goes to show that all women – whether in Hackney, the Bronx, Glasnevin or Sydney – are essentially the same creatures with the same interests. Valentino? Yves Saint Laurent? Sisters everywhere walk around in shoes that cost the same as BMWs and dresses that are more expensive than cabin cruisers.

Depending on your personal philosophy (and bank account), you will either nod in warm agreement or search desperately for something to contain the vomit rising through your oesophagus.

Is that enough to put you off? Oh, yes the Irish nanny. Readers should be aware that the first film’s undercurrent of ambient racism has now swelled to take in our own dear country. Every time Alice Eve’s begorrah peasant rolls into view, the soundtrack surges with jolly tin whistles. You have been warned.