SEX AND THE CITY 2 – Blu-ray review

It seems to me if you were a fan of the TV series and you liked the first movie, you might enjoy “Sex and the City 2.” If, however, you never cared for the TV show and didn’t see or didn’t like the first movie, you’ll probably not like this new film much, either. I watched only a few episodes of the television program, missed the first movie, and found most of this sequel tedious to a fault.

The movie does make some small attempt to appeal to non-fans by providing a brief history of the main characters. The four principal friends are back, of course, as are their spouses, and we learn how the friends met and what they’re up to now. This exposition takes up the first hour or so of the story before the main plot kicks in, making the movie seem like an extended pair of television shows. Which is pretty much what the movie is, actually, given that its co-writer and director is Michael Patrick King, who did the original TV series and the first movie.

After a brief glimpse at how the four friends met some twenty years earlier in New York City, we learn what they’re up to in the present. The main character is Carrie Bradshaw Preston (Sarah Jessica Parker), an author and supposed expert on love and romance, love and romance being the primary topics of the movie, along with sex. As the story opens, it reminds us that Carrie married the man of her dreams, the rich, handsome hunk known as “Mr. Big” (Chris Noth, who bears a striking resemblance to Victor Mature).

Carrie’s inseparable pals are Charlotte York Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis), Carrie’s first best friend in the city, married, with two young children; Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), Carrie’s next best friend, a lawyer, married, with one young boy; and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), a publicist and the only one of the four who has remained single, with sex the seemingly only thing on her mind.

Now, here’s their dilemma: All four women have reached middle age and are having trouble coping with it. Worse, the three married women are having second thoughts either about marriage or their jobs. Carrie’s husband’s idea of a good time is watching old black-and-white movies on television; Charlotte is going a little crazy with the screaming kids, and she’s worried her husband finds their sexy young nanny more attractive than she is; and Miranda frets that her senior colleague in the law firm is a male-chauvinist jerk ruining her career.

The subject of romance and marriage comes up in an early and quite-lengthy scene when the four friends attend the wedding of a gay friend. Like everything else in the movie, the story overdoes the scene. Also like everything else in the movie, the wedding seems like an afterthought, an unnecessary appendage simply thrown into the show to allow everybody to look glamorous and say witty things that no one in real life would ever think to say. The wedding is so “gay,” incidentally, that Liza Minnelli performs the marriage ceremony and even gets to do a song-and-dance number for no apparent reason except that, well, if you’ve got Liza Minnelli in your movie, you’d better find something for her to do.

That’s when the centerpiece of the story finally rolls around, close to an hour in. A super-wealthy sheik asks Miranda to come and stay for a week at a luxury hotel he owns in Abu Dhabi, with an eye toward her publicizing the place for him. She agrees, but only if she can bring along her three friends, all of whom gladly accept the invitation, if only to get away from their regular lives for a while. Of course, it’s also an excuse to get the four friends back into a more-or-less single situation, as in the old days, and in a glamorous place. There’s that word “glamorous” again.

The hotel turns out to be more like a palace, and the women not only have the best penthouse in the joint, they each get assigned a personal valet. Then we see their idiotic romantic adventures unfold in the middle of the desert, where Samantha runs off with a dashing Danish architect who’s charging through the sand dunes like Lawrence of Arabia, and Carrie just happens to reunite with an old flame she runs into in the middle of a marketplace. What are the odds?

“Sex and City 2” is all about fashion and jewelry and gowns, Mercedes and Maybach automobiles, private jets, and Rolex watches. It’s all about style and sophistication and, yes, glamor. It’s a fairy tale for women bored with their lives, their jobs, their husbands, their lost youth, and their lost opportunities.

In fact, this isn’t so much a movie as it is an excuse for a foursome of old friends to go through the steps of a paint-by-the-numbers TV sitcom, just for the sake of old times and to cash in one more time on past glory. The movie’s conflicts get dumber as the story goes on, and the script never develops any of the characters beyond their previous stereotypes.

OK, I lied. Maybe if you liked the TV series and the first movie, you still won’t like this sequel. Beyond the glitz, “Sex and the City 2” has very little to recommend it.

Warners use a dual-layer BD50 and a VC-1 codec to transfer the movie to high-definition Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio, 1.85:1. The picture is mostly bright and sharp, maybe too bright. It’s brighter, glossier, glassier, and gaudier than real life, which is probably the point in order to glamorize the image. Although skin tones are also a bit too intense for a lifelike appearance, at least the black levels are solid, setting off the hues nicely.

It’s too bad the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack has little more to do than reproduce the movie’s vapid music. I found the music largely unappealing, especially when it ventures into the pop category and gets loud and pounding, which was too much of the time for me. As it is, the audio displays a deep, thumping bass, a wide front-channel stereo spread, a smooth overall response, and some limited action in the surrounds, mainly in musical ambience reinforcement.

Among the extras you’ll find the usual suspects. There’s the mandatory commentary from the director, in this case Michael Patrick King. Following that is a series of featurettes: “So Much Can Happen in Two Years,” twenty-six minutes, is a conversation between Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael Patrick King on their memories of making the film; “Styling Sex and the City 2,” fifteen minutes, highlights comments by the costume designer, Patricia Field; “Marry Me, Liza!,” about eight minutes, takes us behind the filming of the wedding, with Ms. Minnelli commenting on the scene; “Revisiting the ’80s,” four minutes, “The Men of Sex and the City,” twenty-eight minutes, and the promo “Sex and the City Soundtrack: In the Recording Studio with Alicia Keyes” are self explanatory.

Then, because this is a Combo Pack, we get a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a digital copy of the movie for iTunes or Windows Media (the offer expiring October 30, 2011). In addition, there are twenty-three scene selections; BD-Live access; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and a slipcover for the Blu-ray case.

Parting Shots:
I can’t say that watching “Sex and the City 2” is the most productive way to spend eight hours of your life. No, it’s not eight hours. It’s more like two-and-a-half hours. But it feels like eight hours when you’re watching it.

I just wanted it to be over.