Can a film succeed in spite of its main character? That is the dilemma with the new film “Sex and the City 2,” the follow-up to the wildly popular 2008 film based on the hit HBO series.
Here’s a movie that manages to have moments of humor and insight, lost in a sea of 21/2 hours of excess - mostly centering on the main character, Carrie (played by Sarah Jessica Parker).
For those unfamiliar with “Sex and the City,” this sequel picks up two years after the marriage of Carrie, a successful New York writer, and the love of her life, Mr. Big (an underutilized Chris Noth).
But time has put a strain on the relationship, at least in Carrie’s mind, and Carrie’s having doubts about whether the couple can keep the sparkle in their relationship.
While Carrie struggles with her marriage, her lifelong friends also continue to deal with their day-to-day problems. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is stressed out as a new mom. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is battling through the strains of her career, while Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is struggling to fight the changes in her 50-year-old body.
When Samantha is offered a chance to devise a public relations campaign for a wealthy sheik, she uses the business meeting as a chance to bring her friends along to Abu Dhabi for a luxurious getaway. Once the girls arrive, Carrie bumps into old flame Aidan (John Corbett), further complicating her strained relationship.
I still have yet to see one episode of this series, with the first film the beginning and end of my familiarity of these characters, and I will concede I am definitely not the film’s target audience. That demographic, which was well represented at the midnight screening I attended, felt right at ease with the characters and enjoyed it immensely. Fans of the series probably won’t be disappointed.
For anyone else, “Sex and the City 2” really doesn’t bring much to the table. I’ll admit any film that can wedge a cameo from Liza Minnelli, singing and dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” no less, at least gets a few points from me.
There are other moments that work as well, especially a confessional between Miranda and Charlotte about the strains of being a mother. And to her credit, Cattrall has some nice comedic moments and zingers, even if her menopause is overplayed for laughs in the same manner bodily function humor is overplayed in a lot of bad children’s movies.
But all the good of the film is negated by Carrie, who seems shallow and superficial. Her problems with her marriage and life never ring true, probably because Noth is so likable as Big. It would be easy to overlook this flaw if Carrie wasn’t center stage - with Parker narrating the film, in fact.
Parker, who was actually one of the strengths of the first film, tries her best with what writer/director Michael Patrick King gives her, but it can’t save a character lost in her own fairy tale world. It may be a world a lot of the “SATC” audience dreams of, but for me it was a nightmare.
Also in theaters
While “Sex and the City” will appeal to the women, the young ones have Dreamworks’ latest in “Shrek Forever After” (B), the fourth and (supposedly) final film featuring the lovable green ogre voiced by Mike Myers. While this one isn’t quite on par with the first two films in the franchise, it’s still a satisfying conclusion to one of the most successful animated series of the last decade.
“Forever After” picks up with Shrek and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) settled into the family routine, with three bouncing babies running around the house.
Shrek becomes bored and frustrated with his new domesticated life (almost sounds like another movie just released), making a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) to get his old life back for one day. But the deal comes with a catch - Rumpelstiltskin is the ruler of Far, Far Away and Shrek is on the verge of being erased from existence forever.
After four movies in a nine-year span, it’s safe to say the franchise has lost a little luster. Still, I think this chapter is an improvement over the last edition (which a lot of people didn’t like), with enough pop culture references to please the adults and a simple enough story to entertain children.
Myers and Diaz are fine as Shrek and Fiona, but it is the supporting characters who once again have the most fun. Eddie Murphy, as Donkey, and Antonio Banderas, as Puss in Boots, still get most of the film’s laughs (along with small gags involving Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man). When they are on screen the film still shows some life.
Dreamworks has said this will be the final chapter - which is probably a good thing. I’m not sure there is really much more you can do with this series - unless you can figure out a way to create a spin-off for Murphy’s or Banderas’ character.
“Shrek Forever After” is rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and language and is now playing at the Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas in Glasgow, and the Franklin Drive-In.