Yes, the reviews are in, and Sex & the City 2 didn't fare particularly well. Neither did its actresses. Let's take a look at the language used to describe the ladies.
Depending on who you ask, the film is either a saucy romp through political incorrectness, or a vapid, sagging mess. Unsurprisingly, even the critics who loved it had a couple of unflattering things to say about the movie, and the vast majority of the positive reviews focused on the magic of the series, not the sequel itself. The negative reviews were a totally different story.
Most critics remained fairly civil in their expressions of disapproval, but some were straight-up nasty. Take, for example, Rex Reed at the Observer, who wrote:
Sarah Jessica Parker looks better after her face mole was surgically removed, so why does her hair look like 20 pounds of mattress stuffing?
Samantha (Kim Cattrall), still the group slut who has slept with every eligible man in Manhattan and half of Brooklyn without learning anything about real life in the Porthault sheets, brings a new face that looks like some of the sutures are still in it and her usual stinging one-liners.
Sadly, Reed doesn't even get the dubious honor of being the bitchiest reviewer. Quite a few critics felt that the need to make it explicit that they would never have sex with those washed-up hags. But no one is as bad as David Edelstein, who really, really wants you to know that these ladies are old:
The film is an epic eyesore. It's as if they set out to make a movie that said, "You're right! We are hideous!" It begins with the nightmarish manic gaiety of Mamma Mia!, with strenuous lockjawed smiles that make you think you're watching stroke victims. Then Liza Minnelli shows up to perform a gay marriage. Heralded (and hooted at) as the embodiment of camp unreality, she looks more human-nervous but happy to belong somewhere-than the four leads... What's the point of spending that much when the cinematographer, John Thomas, lights Sarah Jessica Parker to bring out the leatheriness of her skin? How did he manage to mummify the lovely Cynthia Nixon? Kim Cattrall, fresh off her witty, subtle work in The Ghost Writer, is costumed to look like a cross between (late) Mae West and (dead) Bea Arthur. Kristin Davis gets by (just) pulling little-girl faces, probably for the last time.
Okay, we get it, you hated the film. However, it's rare to see a writer attack a male lead with this kind of vitriol. Does the "leatheriness" of her skin really make the movie that much more unbearable? Sadly, we suspect for men like Edelstein - and Kyle Smith, who un-cleverly renamed it "Bitchtar" - maybe it does.
But in order to better review the reviews, we decided to make a couple of graphic representations of their language. Although they do reveal something about the films, they are more useful in decoding how we talk about the aggressively female-driven pop cultural phenomenon that is Sex. The word cloud you see above (click to enlarge) is "pure" in that it includes the full text of every review we've seen so far. It takes into account all the filler words and all the plot description. Thus, you see a lot of "Carrie," "women," "show," and "Samantha." However, there are some revealing blocks of text, like the relative importance of the term "marriage." Unlike the show, SATC 2 is almost more about conjugal bliss (and lack thereof) than sex itself. Another surprise? The smallness of "clothes" - and the noticeable lack of "Manolos." This time around, critics chose to focus more on the relationships than the fashion - or perhaps the sequel was a little less label-whore and a little more menopausal.
Which brings me to our second word cloud. The image below is culled from a specific list of words that I noticed appeared over and over in the reviews. First and foremost, we have "Menopause/Menopausal," which appeared over 14 times in as many reviews. Next is "Spark/Sparkly/Sparkle," which appeared 11 times. "Camp/Campy" showed up eight times, and "escapist," 7. "Over-the-top" made five appearances, "Sags/Sagging" made four, and "Feminism/Feminist" came in with three (as did "shopping," "misogynistic," and "lavish"). Thankfully, "leathery" was only used the one time, as was "cougar."
Although Edelstein is an outlier in his complete and total disgust, the language he used is not all that unusual. Almost every critic felt the need to discuss their hot flashes (which, in all fairness, may be a huge plot point) and far too many decided to comment on the aging process. Another oft-mentioned moment? The "Lawrence of my Labia" pun that no one seemed to like. Oh well, better luck next time, Samantha. And it's a small triumph, but we were relieved to see "diarrhea" didn't make a comeback this time around.
Sex Is A Pity [New York Observer]
Heaven And Hell [New York Magazine]
Sex And The City 2 [Guardian]
Tasteless Sex And The City 2 Stumbles Badly [USA Today]
Movie Review: Sex And The City 2 [L.A. Times]
Sex And The City 2 Movie Hits A New Low [NY Post]
Sex And The City 2 Review [Telegraph]
Sex And The City 2 [NY Daily News]
Sex And The City 2 - Film Review [Hollywood Reporter]
Yes It's Sagged A Bit, But Sex And The City 2 Hasn't Lost It's Sparkle [Daily Mail]
Sex And The City 2 [Variety]
The Death Of Sex And The City [Guardian]
Review: SATC2 Indulges In Style Over Substance [Yahoo]
New 'Sex And The City' Movie Is Cartoonish, Lame [Newsweek]
Flying Down to Abu Dhabi [New York Times]