Sex and the City 2 

Say what you will, Michael Patrick King knows how to stage a fabulous gay nuptial. Sex and the City 2 begins with flair and good humor at the wedding of Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone), complete with a gay men's chorus crooning a tastefully low-key "Sunrise, Sunset," Carrie and Big in his-and-hers tuxes, and the girl gang beaming best wishes for the happy couple.

So far, so charming, at least until Liza Minnelli — as the rabbi, after a fashion — shows up to hoof a little number, wearing someone else's face and flanked by twin younger versions of herself. I'm sorry, but a 64-year-old woman in a shirt worn over tights is not a happy sight, no matter how good she once was at this. You want to avert your eyes for her sake, and be warned: There's more of that coming.

Having cracked the forgiveness thing in Sex and the City 1, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) faces new work-life challenges: Making partner at her shiny corporate law firm has brought her a hostile new boss. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is fielding two children, one of whom is a chronic weeper, and the potential threat of a comely Irish nanny (Alice Eve) with a free-swinging bosom. Meanwhile, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) continues to play the sex-crazed cougar, and it's getting old in every way as she gobbles vitamins and estrogen-rich yams to counter hot flashes and maintain her drive for young studs with washboard abs.

As for Carrie, Sarah Jessica Parker is now 45 years old, and, frankly, I can't stomach another moment of the simpering, mincing, hair-tossing, eyelash-batting little-girl shtick she's been pulling ever since she emerged, with considerably more verve and charm, as a high-colonic Malibu Barbie opposite Steve Martin in L.A. Story. Carrie has been assigned the movie's big-ticket issue: What to do with marriage once the newlywed bliss is over, especially if you don't want children? Once the happy pair have feathered their cozy little nest, a cavernous pad with the requisite ballroom-sized closet, it turns out that Big is a homebody who has had it with the fancy restaurants and glam gallery openings. He wants nothing more than to cuddle up with Carrie and the flat-screen television.

What's a writer-girl to do about all this loss of conjugal bling? She talks it to death, then heads for Abu Dhabi. There, as you'd expect, are the four F's — fashion, food, furnishings and fornication. For bonus subplotting, Carrie runs into an old flame (John Corbett's Aidan), and they kiss. Major marital flare-up. Can the sparkle be saved, or will it subside into a mature glow?

This sequel is full of not-very-funny gag lines wrapped in strung-together episodic mini-scenes. The HBO series has curdled into a kind of chortling malice, with sadistic close-ups of faces too old for their fuck-me junior attire. There's a goofily charming sequence in a nightclub, when all four women, with backup from a team of voluptuous Arab belly-dancers, sing their own sweet, straight version of "I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar)." Too bad the rest is a self-indulgent whimper.

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