'Sex and the City 2': All Sparkle, No Substance

Scenes in the Middle East (which were actually filmed in Morocco) are both sumptuous and silly. The slow motion, open-mouthed stare that comes over Carrie when she runs into her former fiance, Aiden (John Corbett), at a spice market is pure romantic comedy cliche. The crew's karaoke club performance, complete with belly dancers and back-up singers, might have been more appropriate in "Mamma Mia!" The panoramic shot of the girls strutting through the dunes in ludicrous desert ensembles makes them look like aliens descended from the planet Bergdorf Goodman (and not in a good way).

Ultimately, what's most frustrating about "Sex and the City 2" is that it's all "sparkle" -- Carrie's current obsession, given that she doesn't find her marriage to Big dazzling enough.

But sparkle dulls. And beyond the flashy fashion and locations, there's nothing here that "Sex and the City" fans haven't seen before. The plots resolve themselves in predictable ways, all the better for the gals to reunite a third time, maybe in a retirement home.

For many movie-goers, though, the sparkle will be enough. A couple of cocktails with the girls beforehand could make "Sex and the City 2" a perfectly lovely experience. (Though go easy on the cosmos -- diehard fans won't want to take a bathroom break, and this saga's 2½ hours long.)

But for those wanting more, hoping for the pre-big-screen "Sex and the City," heed some advice from Carrie herself. During that karaoke scene as she sings "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar," she belts out, "And I know too much to go back and pretend."

Yeah, we all do.

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