SEX AND THE CITY 2 - Blu-ray review

Published on SoCal.com

In the late ’90s, HBO launched a weekly series about a single sex columnist in New York City and her three best girlfriends. No one had ever seen a series like this before. In 30 minutes, viewers were exposed to bed hopping, cocktail drinking, smoking and four very independent women who redefined what it means to be single.

Flash forward to 2004. The ladies of “Sex and the City” had gone through many changes: marriage, divorce, childbirth, cancer, infidelity and home ownership among them. By the series’ end, some felt that the show had strayed too far from the original freewheeling formula, though fans universally rejoiced when Carrie finally landed her Mr. Big.

Many of those same criticisms were launched at the 2008 feature film as well; mainly, that these gals were too old, their storylines were too heavy and they just weren’t relatable. But those critics overlooked one critical fact: despite the titillating title, the series was never just about sex. Watching the escapades of these four women was like watching aspects of your own personality (whether it be a fashionista, good girl, career woman or sexaholic) taken to the limits; everyone could relate a little bit to Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha.

That said, Sex and the City 2 (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack + Digital Copy, MSRP: $35.99; DVD, MSRP: $28.98) takes this idea of living your fantasy and blows it up. Chris Noth isn’t the only “Big” in this production. There’s a wedding that is like a cross between Winter Wonderland and Broadway; a movie premiere compete with red carpet antics; and, of course, an all-expense paid trip for four to Abu Dhabi, the country in the United Arab Emirates deemed “the future of the Middle East.”

The movie begins two years after the first film ended. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) meets up with her besties, Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), to shop a wedding registry at Bergdorf Goodman, and in the process viewers are treated to an ’80s flashback of each character in their 20s (most of which are truly dreadful).

At an over-the-top wedding in Connecticut, we see the first signs of trouble to come. Carrie unintentionally upsets a fan with her decision not to have children; Miranda’s new chauvinistic boss (the perfectly cast Ron White) bombards her with text messages as her patient husband Steve (David Eigenberg) tries to enjoy the romantic setting; Charlotte tries to downplay her struggle with two-year-old Rose and her constant crying; and Samantha amazes her friends with the sheer volume of supplements she’s started taking to hold onto her youth.

At the red-carpet premiere for Smith Jerrod’s (Jason Lewis) latest movie, an actioner set in the heart of the desert, Samantha meets the Middle Eastern backers who are very interested in her PR prowess. Claiming that Dubai is yesterday and Abu Dhabi is the future, they invite her to visit, all expenses paid, and then meet to discuss ways to get the word out in America. Samantha convinces them to include her three friends and the trip is a done deal.

They fly aboard the sheik’s private airline and arrive at a sumptuous hotel via their own private Maybachs, then are shown to their suite where four butlers wait to satisfy their every whim. Despite the confiscation of Samantha’s pharmaceuticals at the airport and Charlotte’s lack of iPhone service, it seems as if their week is off to a swimming start (especially with the scenes of the Australian national soccer team in the hotel pool). Complications ensue when Carrie runs into the one that got away, Aidan (John Corbett), in the marketplace.

One of the most hotly debated topics between “SATC” fans is whether Carrie should have ended up with Aidan or Big. By bringing him into the picture at a time when her marriage is losing its sparkle, writer/director Michael Patrick King is toying with longtime fans. Will she stray with the married Aidan as she once cheated on him with Big? Or will Carrie realize what she has and stay with her man? The results are surprising, but definitely in character.

Viewers who could identify with the everywoman struggles of this quartet before will struggle to empathize with beyond-first-class flights, luxury car service and $22,000-per-night hotel rooms. In the desert of our current economy, such lavish excess is almost like a mirage. But the lush scenery and exotic lifestyle ultimately fade into the background of storylines that definitely hit home: Why do I hate the job I worked so hard to get? Will he cheat with the nanny? Where did the spark in our marriage go? What happens when menopause hits and you’re still chasing youth?

Panned by many critics, true fans of the series loved this film. For the most part, although the actresses were rarely together much in the original series, Sex and the City 2 feels like a throwback to the glory days on HBO, when their core friendships were the focus and provided the strength to get through any crisis.

The bonus features on the Blu-ray release offer fans an in-depth look at some of the choices made by the actors, filmmakers, stylists and even soundtrack artists on the film. Every line of dialogue, stitch of clothing, camera angle and musical note was created to enrich the story in ways a casual viewer would never notice, and it’s the subtle details and acting choices that really elevate the film far beyond the boundaries of the half-hour series. The insights are fascinating, however they do tend to get a bit repetitive if you watch all of the bonus features back to back. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see.

For the most comprehensive look behind the scenes, watch the movie with the commentary by King activated. If there was ever a time you thought that Sex and the City 2 was shallow or visual fluff, King reveals many hidden subtexts and deeper meanings behind every scene. Afterward, the viewer definitely has a greater understanding of the psychology behind each character, and the broader social messages the movie explored.

If you’ve ever met a former coworker for drinks a few years after you parted ways, you will understand the vibe during "So Much Can Happen in Two Years: A Conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker and Director Michael Patrick King.” It’s just SJP and King, sitting in fabulous pink armchairs, talking about old times, but it feels as if there’s really a third armchair off-screen—and you’re in it. Though many of their reminiscences revolve around the off-screen process of making the film, it still feels as if the viewer can relate. Incredibly warm and nostalgic, this featurette gives greater depth to some of the commentary by King and reveals the extent that Parker was involved in the creation of this film, both as a producer and as an actor. If there were any complaint, it would be that it was over too soon.

Stylist Patricia Field isn’t the type to hold back when it comes to fashion, and this movie provided ample opportunity for over-the-top ensembles. In “Styling Sex and the City 2,” Field, King and cast members wax nostalgic over recreating the ’80s looks for the four women before delving into the luxe looks created for the trip to Abu Dhabi. The desert locale wasn’t the only lavish production, as they reveal the racks and racks of clothing for each character, shelf upon shelf of shoes and bags and two rooms exclusively for jewelry. They also talk about the sartorial choices made in certain scenes and the challenges (or fantastic opportunities) each provided. If you have a passion for fashion, this segment will be your porn.

“Revisiting the ’80s” (available on both the DVD and Blu-ray release) covers some of the same ground as “Styling Sex and the City 2,” but with more of a focus on the making of the two-minute segment that opens the movie. It explains a bit more about who the girls were when they met, and why King thought it was important to include this montage. It’s interesting, but for those who purchase the Blu-ray release and listen to the commentary track or watch some of the other Blu-ray features, you get most of the same information.

The venerable Liza Minnelli made one of the greatest cameos in the film, and “Marry Me, Liza!” a fitting tribute. Over two weeks, the cast filmed the big wedding scene in which she appears (between whom will remain unsaid so it won’t spoil the surprise). This featurette takes fans onto the set as she runs lines, chats with costars and rehearses the surprising choreography (putting an end to rumors that her head might have been CGI-ed onto another body). This is one person for whom show business is truly in the DNA, and it’s easy to see her come alive in front of the camera. This is also the bonus feature with the biggest faux pas of them all: at the end of the segment, the cast and crew talk about how amazing it was to work with Minnelli and how, on the last day of filming, she did an impromptu performance for everyone on set. They talk about the amazing quality of her voice, the electricity in the air, even the reaction of the swans. The only thing they don’t do is show the performance, although they clearly had footage (a snippet runs behind voice-over commentary, followed by her taking a bow). Why not allow viewers to be touched by her singing “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” instead of talking over it? Anyone who loves Minnelli enough to watch this feature will probably be mightily disappointed at this ending.

Mario Cantone (Anthony) and King are a riot as they take a trip down memory lane with “The Men of Sex and the City.” Like flipping through a high school yearbook, the boys talk about the men (and one woman) that romanced the ladies throughout the run of the series. Naturally, Aidan and Mr. Big are represented (whose team were you on?), but they also talk about the quirky (Carrie’s boyfriend-who-broke-up-on-a-Post-it Berger, Charlotte’s potty-mouthed lover), the sexy (Miranda’s affair with Blair Underwood) and the downright bizarre (Mr. Pussy, Mr. Tookus Lingus and David Duchovny as Carrie’s psych ward sweetheart). At the end, King quizzes Cantone on “which girl did what” (such as who had sex with an Orthodox Jew, which girl had a girlfriend and whose man had less-than-stellar measurements down there). The funniest part of this quiz (deemed “hilarious” by the Blu-ray cover) was that Cantone got most of the answers wrong! This is one of the more original features on the Blu-ray release.

One feature that seems like a total waste of space is “Sex and the City 2 Soundtrack: In the Recording Studio with Alicia Keys,” which is ironic since it’s included on both the Blu-ray and DVD release. Beginning after an ad for the soundtrack, this tiny featurette shows Keys in the recording studio, where she talks about how she came to be a part of the new movie and how much fun she had working on the project. To hear her talk, you’d think that she wrote the score for half the movie instead of just the first three minutes. If the concessions line was long, you would have missed her contribution completely at the theater.

All in all, fans of the series will get more than their fill of luxury, laughs, Louboutins—and of course, love.

Sex and the City 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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