Girls Go Sexless Outside the City

There’s a steep price of entry to director Michael Patrick King’s followup to 2008’s Sex and the City: For any semblance of enjoyment, you’ll have to buy into Carrie Bradshaw and friends’ glimmering unreality of impromptu private-jet getaways and $22,000-a-night hotel suites. But boy, does it glimmer.

Don’t be fooled by the title, though: Not only do the sex scenes number exactly two (and offer little in the way of pity female nudity for the husbands and boyfriends in the crowd), the bulk of the film takes place 6,000 miles from New York City in Abu Dhabi, displacing the fabulous foursome far from their cosmo-twirling, bed-hopping origins into a conservative Muslim society — but more on that later.

Picking up two years after the first installment left off, we meet Carrie and Co. at the wedding of — hey, why not? — Charlotte and Carrie’s respective gay besties. In case the bowtied show choir and pond of white swans gracing the ceremony aren’t decadent enough, Liza Minelli swoops in to both officiate as rabbi and perform a rousing rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” — giving way, of course, to shimmying backup dancers and a swooning crowd.

It’s a telling taste of the extravagant alternate universe in which the girls have always existed, but the wedding also marks the spot at which everything starts to unravel. After a remark from a stranger on her childless marriage, Carrie starts to question the relationship it took her six TV seasons and one hapless big-screen adaptation to land.

When Charlotte, Miranda and even Samantha begin to show some signs of wear from decidedly grown-up threats to their happiness (ranging from menopause to a bra-less nanny), it’s time for a change — in the form an all-expense-paid trip to Abu Dhabi, courtesy of a generous sheikh who happens to want Samantha’s help in promoting his new, impossibly over-the-top resort.

As soon as the ladies land in the Middle East, the requisite culture clash results: Charlotte whines that her iPhone won’t work; Miranda butchers her tour-guide Arabic; Samantha won’t dream of covering her 52-year-old chest. A string of puns — varying in cringe-worthiness from “Lawrence of my labia” to “bed, bath and Bedouin” — don’t do much to help the ladies’ cause. In fact, the film’s simplistic depiction of modern Abu Dhabi has already yielded criticism from the United Arab Emirates’ National Media Council.

Of course, in every respect that really matters in this $95 million ode to extravagance — sassy dialogue, male eye candy and, most importantly, new exotic fashions — writer-producer-director King delivers. And delivers. And delivers. Until — one arrest, 142 minutes and 2,000 wardrobe changes later — it’s hard to muster much sympathy for this whiny, overindulged foursome.

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