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Does 'Sex and the City 2' lose its identity when it leaves the Big Apple?

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In Sex and the City 2, writer/director Michael Patrick King tries to answer the burning question: Cynthia Nixon,Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, and Kristin Davis from "Sex in the City 2."After six successful seasons and one extravagant film, where else can you take this series of iconic female characters? The answer is half way across the world apparently.

The new film opens two years after the events of the first movie, finding the quartet dealing with married life in a variety of ways. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is overly stressed at a law firm that doesn’t respect her voice and pulls her away from personal family time. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has resorted to locking herself in the pantry because of her kids' temper tantrums. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has hit a rut with dream man Mr. Big (Chris Noth), fearing they are doomed to become the cliché boring married couple. Finally, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has effectively tricked her body into thinking it hasn’t entered menopause.

Things come to a head when Samantha is presented with an opportunity to escape to an all expenses paid trip to beautiful Abu Dhabi. She recruits the rest of the crew, and pretty soon it’s Lawrence of Arabia via Chanel and Dior. In one of the many attempts to showcase gaudy excess, each lady is greeted with their own private luxury car awaiting them at the Abu Dhabi airport. Another scene lingers over their hotel accommodations, a $22,000 a night room that could make anyone touched by this recent recession cringe.

While there, King does manage to write in some minor drama. Carrie is reunited with ex-flame Aidan (John Corbett), who unfortunately manifests as a catalyst for Carrie’s self destructive urges more than an actual character (Corbett might have five minutes of screen time). Meanwhile, Charlotte struggles with the thought that her husband is back in New York City possibility flirting with the new attractive (and large chested) nanny. Samantha meanwhile, has her menopause meds confiscated at customs, leaving her prone to mood swings and hot flashes. Miranda, somewhat reduced to a caricature here, has very little to do with the exception of acting as a cliff notes guide to Abu Dhabi culture.

Sex and the City 2 suffers from the same kind of sequalitis that any other big franchise does. There is a considerable attempt to up the ante in a variety of ways. The film opens with an over the top gay wedding, the celebrity cameos are completely gratuitous, and the extensive midsection in Abu Dhabi plays up the glitz and gaud to an extreme degree. Also, King attempts to veer so far from the tone of the first film that he establishes one of almost “so bad it’s good” camp. He decorates the proceedings with bombastic music straight out of an Indiana Jones film. He features sequences of the four riding Camels in the desert draped in designer gowns. Other extreme moments, which feature them mocking natives (Carrie comments on a woman eating French fries through a Berka, Samantha gyrating with condoms in a crowd of Arab men) garner initial laughs but register as tasteless and ignorant ultimately.

Still, SATC 2 fits right in with any other summer blockbuster. It’s light, entertaining, and hardly demands much. This is unlike the first film, which was bogged down with melodramatic plot developments. On the flip side, it also has precious little to say in general about culture, life, and love. But it’s still gorgeous to look at, the actresses are in top form, and King sure knows how to please his target audience when it counts.

The end leaves room for yet another entry, but I’d be hard pressed to think where he could possibly take these women next. Sex and the City In Outer Space?

Just a thought.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.