Last month I finally took Paul Scheer’s advice and checked out a podcast called The Worst Idea of All Time. While I love bad movies and bad-movie podcasts, this one had an especially unusual premise: two New Zealand comics would watch one bad movie every week for an entire year, and record a discussion after each viewing. For their first season they watched and discussed the Adam Sandler movie Grown-Ups 2 (and no, they hadn’t seen the first one). For their second season, they are currently watching and discussing Sex & the City 2 (again, with little to no experience of the backstory). After marathoning a bunch of episodes of the podcast over the last several weeks, I made an important decision. I needed to re-watch Grown-Ups 2, and I needed to watch Sex & the City 2 for the first time.
I had watched Grown-Ups 2 just once before for a Razzie Project, and that was enough of a traumatic experience that I never planned to do it again. But after listening to several hours’ worth of rambling conversations that touched on many different facets of the movie, from music to minor characters to what the extras were doing in the backgrounds of different scenes, I wanted to take the plunge. It was basically just as bad as I remembered, but this time I was more appreciative of the intentional and unintentional humor, and I got to fully appreciate Patrick Schwarzenegger’s acting chops. Now, don’t get me wrong — IT’S STILL A BAD MOVIE. But it was fun watching it with their commentary in my ears.
Then I watched Sex & the City 2, which is in some ways better, in some ways worse, and in other ways alarmingly similar to Grown-Ups 2. I’ll bet you didn’t see THAT coming!
So, first, a little background. I watched several seasons of Sex & the City when it ran on HBO. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t stick it out for the entire series. I liked the quartet of female characters well enough, but I never connected with them strongly enough to run around identifying myself or others as characters on the show. If someone came up to me and said, “You’re such a Miranda!” I would have known what she was talking about, but it’s not the kind of thing I would have gone around exclaiming. And besides, I’m afraid that I was probably more of a Charlotte. Overall, I thought that the women were fine, I thought that Big was okay (although I preferred Chris Noth in his Law & Order roles), and I always had a soft spot in my heart for Steve. Awww, Steve. What a sweetie!
Anyway, I saw most but not all of the series, and I … watched the first movie? Or maybe I didn’t? I honestly don’t know. Well, if I did, it wasn’t that memorable. So that’s how I came into Sex & the City 2.
First things first. I can definitely say that, unlike Grown-Ups 2, which you can see is obviously a terrible film just by watching the first five minutes of it, Sex & the City 2 takes longer to reveal its awfulness. One of the things I remember enjoying about the TV series was that each character had time to develop — you got to know these women and see their facets. Yes, a lot of stuff (including sex) happened on the show, but it was also character-driven. This movie strips each woman down to one or two (mostly unflattering) characteristics, and then A LOT OF STUFF HAPPENS. We are dragged around from set piece to set piece, with hardly any room to breathe. There’s a gay wedding, complete with swans and a Liza Minelli musical number! Our protagonists try on fancy dresses! There’s a red carpet event where Miley Cyrus shows up! We go to Abu Dhabi to live extravagantly! There’s (God help me) ANOTHER musical number in which our protagonists sing “I Am Woman” at a karaoke night, which is supposed to … inspire the repressed women of Abu Dhabi? Or something?
Yes, lots of big / fancy / flashy things happen in this movie. Lots of eye candy. Lots of fashions that I think are supposed to look cool and avant garde but which looked pretty frigging ridiculous to me.
But that wasn’t the stuff that REALLY annoyed me about this film. Remember those one or two unflattering characteristics that each of our protagonists have? Well, that’s the aspect of the movie that was like slow-acting poison to my soul. Consider this:
- Charlotte is overwhelmed by motherhood. She has also just realized that the children’s nanny is sexy, and that this could cause problems in her marriage. Basically ignores her husband and hides from her kids.
- Samantha likes sex a lot, which is good because she’s the only one of the group who’s still single. Also, she is trying to fight off the effects of menopause with a suitcase full of supplements. Basically screws guys, and then panics whenever she doesn’t feel like screwing.
- Miranda hates her job because her boss is a big meanie who doesn’t like her and doesn’t value her opinions. Basically ignores her family (including poor, sweet Steve) until she quits her job.
- And Carrie is a cold-hearted witch who doesn’t appreciate a gift from her husband that has romantic implications (okay, it was part selfish and part romantic) but she would prefer a shiny object that she can wear on her finger and stare at instead. Basically, a soul-sucking vortex of neediness and self-obsession.
Too harsh? Maybe. But the further I got into this movie the more I started to hate women. And, you know, I AM one, so I SHOULD be on their side! Instead, I was all, like, Ugh, listen to these women bitching about their lives AGAIN. Why are women so greedy / soulless / shallow / annoying???
And now I should take a moment to explain how this movie and Grown-Ups 2 are similar, because I KNOW you were all wondering what the hell I was talking about. Well, here’s my perspective: these movies are two sides of the same coin. In Grown-Ups 2, the men (aka the moron and his moron friends) are the protagonists. Why are there women in this movie at all? Because they’re basically there to support the men — they laugh at their jokes, they desire them, they shake their heads knowingly at them, and most importantly they back up their husbands and support them. It’s basically a movie that would do very badly on the Bechdel Test. Are there two women talking to each other about something other than a man? Um … well, they talk about exercise for about a minute before their hot aerobics instructor walks in and they start drooling all over him. Does THAT count?
Now let’s look at Sex & the City 2, which is a film about four women and the men who love / desire / support them. Other than Big, most of the guys don’t even have that much to say, and when they do talk the vast majority of their dialogue is to serve the women. Poor, sweet Steve spends most of his time saying things like, “You should quit your job, Honey!” Seriously, the role of most of the men in this movie is to say things like What can I get for you? How can I help you? Would you like some shiny things to distract you? How about some sex? Would you like some sex to distract you?
I mean, unless they’re the conservative middle-eastern guys, in which case their role is to shake their fists at women disapprovingly while the women learn to hide their true natures under their veils. Or, you know, sing karaoke songs about female empowerment.
So .. is this movie worth it? I basically say no, although there are some scenes that are worth watching for different reasons. Would you like to see Liza Minelli singing “Single Ladies”? You certainly can! How about our heroines singing “I Am Woman” and inspiring their ethnically diverse audience? Don’t say I didn’t warn you! What about the guy who drinks way too much coffee in the background of one scene? Wait … what? Well, one of the advantages of watching the same movie over and over again is that you’ll notice weird editing gaffes like this one:
One of the ongoing segments of the podcast is Tim and Guy speculating weird theories about the guy who appears to slam down three coffees and then exit in the space of about a minute while the women prattle on about their exciting vacation plans.
So in conclusion …
Yes to the podcast.
No to the movie.
And Steve deserved better!