Sex and the City 2

May 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon
Directed by: Michael Patrick King (“Sex and the City”)
Written by: Michael Patrick King (“Sex and the City”)

While we might have given New York City fashionista and professional bachelorette Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) free reign to dole out anecdotes about her single life throughout the late 90s and entire Aughts, it would probably be a good idea now if she tucked away those six-inch heels before somebody gets hurt.

After a half dozen entertaining seasons on TV and one frivolous feature film two years ago, director/writer Michael Patrick King refuses to recognize when enough is enough. Instead, King unleashes “Sex in the City 2,” a sequel larger in scope, style and senselessness and less focused on script.

It may be just the fix indiscriminate female fans of the series need to get them through the summer, but for everyone else the antics of the fab four – Carrie, Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) – are beyond intolerable.

Attempting to squeeze herself into a mold she does not fit (the new generation’s feminist extraordinaire), Carrie, the self-absorbed character most female fans flock to for a vicarious fantasy, is once again up to her neck in emotional turmoil.

Marriage life with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is not how she envisioned it. Feeling like her wings have been clipped because Big would rather watch TV and order in instead of painting the town like they used to, Carrie decides she needs to freshen up her life with a trip to Abu Dhabi with her gal pals.

The all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of Samantha’s potential new business partner comes at the most opportune time. Not only is Carrie suffering from cabin fever, Miranda is stressed out about how her job keeps her from spending enough time with Steve (David Eigenberg) and her son (going out of the country makes sense), Charlotte is worried about Harry (Evan Handler) cheating on her with the braless Irish nanny (Alice Eve), and Samantha is trying to handle her new life of hormonal hell with enough pills and creams to start her own pharmacy.

It is obvious King seriously thought he had an epic story here that could fill a bloated 145 minutes of ridiculous dialogue and enough politically incorrect Muslim humor to get them on at least one extremist’s hit list. While in Abu Dhabi, the ladies, who already look like their faces are melting away even before they go camel riding in the desert, share their thoughts on love, sex, relationships, and motherhood with little substance to offer on any of the topics.

Even as lightweight and cloaked in hypocrisy as the first film was, at least it felt like an offshoot to the TV series – a bad four episodes but part of the whole nonetheless. With “Sex and the City 2” the women have nothing besides their names and unattractive attitudes to link them back to what made their friendships interesting in the first place.

Tossing out random scenes where the foursome sings Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” at a karaoke bar or wonders how Arab women in abayas can live in a culture where Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana don’t exist doesn’t cut it. We’re not sure how much longer Carrie can continue to pretend like she’s the voice of female empowerment (50 years old? 60?!) but let’s just be relieved to know Manolo Blahnik has yet to design their version of a therapeutic shoe.

Couples Retreat

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell
Directed by: Peter Billingsley (debut)
Written by: Vince Vaughn (debut), Jon Favreau (“Swingers”), Dana Fox (“What Happens in Vegas”)

Pack light. “Couples Retreat” might seem like an island paradise at first glance, but the star-powered date movie quickly turns into something as enjoyable as the most annoying parts of a free timeshare vacation.

Directed by Peter Billingsley (he played Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”), “Couples Retreat” is not the kind of comedy anyone should take their fiancé (or fiancée) to if they plan to keep the thought of marriage positive before the big day. With so many unlikeable and featureless characters and a script that reads like a fall TV sitcom begging to get axed after six episodes, “Retreat” recoils into childish and repetitive jokes, character clichés (Carlos Ponce steals Hank Azaria’s role from “Along Came Polly” and plays a macho womanizer) and a whole lot of unfunny foolishness.

Basically, the film capsizes right from the start. Married couple Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) are thinking about getting a divorce. They’ve weighed all the pros and cons of splitting up, but don’t think they can come to a conscious decision unless they make one last effort by going to a tropical island resort where they can spend quality time with each other and get some much-needed marriage counseling.

Problem is, Jason and Cynthia can’t afford the trip on their own (here’s an idea: plan a cheaper trip), so they ask their friends to go with them so they can take advantage of the group rate. It takes some groveling on Jason’s part, but before anyone can say Beach Blanket Bingo Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Ackerman), Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis), and Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) are getting off an airplane at a destination described as “Disneyland for adults.”

But what is supposed to be a fun-filled week for a majority of the group becomes a dreaded marathon of couple-building exercises when relationship guru Monsieur Marcel (Jean Reno) makes everyone wake up a the crack of dawn to talk about their feelings and participate in other nonsensical icebreakers (who knew throwing bloody chum at sharks could save a marriage!).

Each couple has their specific problems, but none of them are of much significance in the hands of screenwriters Favreau, Vaughn, and Dana Fox (“What Happens in Vegas”). What the writing trio identifies with the most isn’t the deep-seeded problems of a broken relationship, but instead how far they can push their couples (and the audience) to the brink of boredom.

The funniest scene of the movie comes when the men are discussing whether or not thinking about other women while having sex with your wife should be considered cheating. It’s not a groundbreaking joke or anything, but the guys refer to it as a personal “highlight reel” (the best sexual experiences of one’s life), which is fairly clever in terms of sports metaphors. A few misplaced chuckles, however, don’t make up for the movie’s major limitations.

“When you’re married, love is having someone to go to Applebee’s with,” Vaughn’s Dave proclaims by the end of the movie. It might sound like the same kind of cute gibberish you would hear someone like actor Michael Cera deliver in a romantic comedy, but something about “Couples Retreat” makes us think all the characters involved are just dense enough to believe it.