The girls are back in “Sex and the City 2,” the sequel to the 2008 smash hitting theaters nationwide this weekend.
But these “girls” aren’t the same ones we first met in 1998, the debut season for the HBO series which spawned the film franchise.
The actresses are all now in their 40s and 50s, and yet they’re still acting like starry-eyed teen worrying about wearing the right shoes, making the loudest fashion statement and keeping the men in their lives from fleeing for the exits.
It’s a safe bet men dragged to the theater this weekend by their wives will have a similar urge to scram.
At what point will “Sex” star Sarah Jessica Parker realize her co-stars aren’t young enough to fulfill the same ol’ female fantasies—like owning walk-in closets bigger than most people’s kitchens and partying like its 1999?
Even the film’s marketers appear uncomfortable with its aging foursome. One of the film’s posters features airbrushed versions of the starlets, wiping away the years with a few cruel strokes.
“Sex’s” signature feminism got overruled by the need to speak to today’s youth-crazed demographic, apparently.
The “Sex” crew isn’t ready to act their age any time soon. The sequel finds them romping through the sexually repressed city of Abu Dhabi, meeting up with an old flame (John Corbett’s blue-collar Aidan character returns) and dealing with men who’d rather watch “Sports Center” than paint the town chartreuse.
If that wasn’t enough to keep manly men a 1,000 yards from the nearest movie house, the film opens with an elaborately staged gay wedding overseen by Liza Minnelli.
“SATC2” does make some belabored concessions to the aging process. The sexually aggressive Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is going through menopause, and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) wonders if her new, childless marriage will have the spark she always dreamed it would.
Hollywood loves a profitable franchise, and “Sex and the City” is that rare beast that rakes in the cash by appealing primarily to women. So keeping the movies churning is a necessity, no matter if the stars need a few tucks and air brush sessions to keep the iconic characters alive.
Sell another “Sex” film and you’re all but guaranteeing women will keep buying “appletinis” and other “Sex” inspired accouterments—at least until “Sex and the City 3” tells us what’s next on our shopping list.
But what if the times have passed the fearsome foursome by? The show began with four lovely ladies living it up in New York City. They seemed a little lost at times, their search for Mr. Right—or Mr. Big (Chris Noth) to be precise—always hit a comical roadblock. But the show allowed them to be vulnerable and relatable for six tumultuous seasons.
Recall Charlotte’s famous line about the search for her soul mate—“I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted. Where is he?”
It’s a far cry from the 2010 version of the franchise, what with three of the four women happily hooked up and living in the financially devastated Age of Obama.
This isn’t the Big Apple the characters romped around in for all those years. Films offer a valuable escape from the humdrum, but the kind of excess on consistent display in the “Sex” franchise now beggar belief.
Can even hardcore “Sex” addicts stand two-plus hours of endless costume changes?
The early reviews for “SATC2” haven’t been kind. They’ve been downright vicious, actually.
Roger Ebert said some of the characters in the film “made my skin crawl.” And that was one of the more genteel thrashings. Catty critic Rex Reed’s opening salvo against the film conjures images too explicit for this family friendly site.
Another critic wrote his review as if he were analyzing a horror movie.
It’s easy to mock celebrities who cling to their most famous roles. Heck, the Rolling Stones are still doing their bad-boy shtick into their late 60s. But Mick Jagger and Co. are rock stars, not characters meant to reflect modern times.
Movie franchises in general tend to overstay their welcome. Just remember the laborious chapters known as “Rocky V,” “Lethal Weapon 4” and “Beverly Hills Cop 3” as some obvious examples.
And male actors can be just as guilty of hiding their age as the “Sex” actresses. Al Pacino’s coif in “88 Minutes” defied gravity, as if each sturdy follicle could disprove the numbers on his birth certificate.
Audiences have plenty of goodwill stocked away for the “SATC” franchise. The new film may wipe out that inventory and damage the brand in the process. It might be better for fans to imagine their favorite characters’ lives in their own heads now, rather than watching them in a steel cage match with Father Time.
Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel