Home > Vulture News > THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: This Memorial Day, It’s The Bloated ‘Sex’ Sequel Vs. The Bloated ‘Persia’ Epic

THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: This Memorial Day, It’s The Bloated ‘Sex’ Sequel Vs. The Bloated ‘Persia’ Epic

It’s that time of year again: Memorial Day weekend! Summer’s just around the corner and families are taking advantage of that extra day off to go camping and sit in long lines of traffic. It’s also when the studios release their big guns, hoping to score some of that sweet summer box office. The two pics going head-to-head are Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. One has a colon (which is usually a good marketing move for blockbusters) and the other has a lot of cleavage (which is also a good marketing move) — and both are preceded by a lot of advance hype and anticipation.

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After a profitable string of midnight shows, Sex and the City 2, the sequel to the 2008 hit that was based on the popular HBO series, opens in wide release today. This time around, the four venerable gal pals (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall all reprising their roles) find themselves on trek from NYC to Abu Dhabi. As the trailer above demonstrates, the film’s producers are desperately pandering to predominantly female and gay audiences (Liza Minelli anyone?).

Naturally, plot matters little in this franchise. As long as the references to Manolo Blahnik and Chanel are in place, the hardcore fans will be content. Gone are the days when SATC was known as the hip, smartly written TV series that explored single life in the big city. Now the characters are married, shallow and, basically, grotesque caricatures of rich women who take consumption to a new level. It’s all the more surprising that Michael Patrick King, the show’s creator and head writer, wrote and directed both films, as the original vision seems to have been thrown out the window.

THE BUZZ: Awful. Even worse than the first outing (although, as mentioned earlier, the hardcore fans won’t care). In The Village Voice, Ella Taylor writes:

“Having raked in $400 million for the first SATC, King can pretty much write his own ticket, which may explain why the sequel runs a crushing 146 minutes. But he’s a TV guy, not a movie guy. Like its predecessor, SATC2—with a script that’s basically a sack full of not very funny gag-lines wrapped in strung-together episodic mini-scenes—is not suited to be a movie. What makes this one especially unbearable, though, is the way King’s palpable affection for women—the more neurotic the better—in 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 and problems 15 years too young.

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon finds the pic overly shrill, saying:

When Carrie asks Big [her husband], ‘Am I just a bitch wife who nags you?’ I could hear all the straight men in the theater — all four of us — being physically prevented from responding.

And although he’s a fan of the show, Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune finds nothing worthwhile in the film versions:

If Sex 2 were a half-hour HBO episode, nobody would be thinking about the implications of anything. At the show’s peak the ensemble, especially Parker, could sell any conceit, any hypocrisy, any zinger. King’s big-screen expansions of this fantasy universe have their moments, but the padding is outrageous: montages of the gals swanning around in the desert on camels, that sort of thing…

I enjoyed these characters more when they were rich, rather than obscenely rich, when their self-involvement and life crises had one foot on planet Earth — and when they weren’t all gussied up like Mae West in Sextette.

Looks like SATC 2 is an example of a project that suffers from way too much excess. But will it be profitable? Very.

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The Prince of Persia started out as a side-scroll computer game released in 1989 for Apple II, created and developed by Jordan Mechner. It has since spawned some 13 sequels. According to IMDb, a big screen adaptation has been in-development since 1989. Nothing became of it until recently, when the Walt Disney Company gave it the greenlight.

Persia was directed by Mike Newell (of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire fame) and was written by Boaz Yakin (From Dusk Til Dawn 2), Doug Miro (The Uninvited) and Carlo Bernard (also The Uninvited), with Mechner taking screen story credit. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina and newcomer Gemma Arterton. The marketing has been hot and heavy for months, and Disney is banking on the idea that both gamers and novices will show up.

THE BUZZ: So-so. Okay for a game adaptation, but not a very good film seems to be the consensus. Although Rolling Stone‘s Pete Travers doesn’t think it’s a particular good game adaptation either. He writes:

“What’s missing in Prince of Persia is a sense that all the running, jumping, climbing and fighting is leading to something. The best video games challenge you to reach the next level. Prince of Persia is content to skim the surface.

Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News is even harsher, saying:

A lot of action flicks are examples of mediocrity, but a truly terrible action movie, one that shows how not to do things at every turn, is a rare thing. Perhaps this was the true destiny of Prince of Persia.

The blockbuster does have a few begrudging defenders, though (which is more than can be said for SATC 2). In EW, Lisa Schwarzbaum writes:

As sword-and-sandal fantasy movies based on videogames and starring a buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal go, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time goes pretty well. Gyllenhaal plays the grown-up Prince Dastan, adopted as a resourceful street kid by a sixth-century Persian king.

I wish the movie weren’t so visually junky-looking, and that the CGI action sequences (involving sand, and weapons, and the possible destruction of the world) weren’t so vacant. But hey, this is what a videogame movie looks like now. I know I can’t turn back time.

So if you feel like a blockbuster this weekend, the choices are mindless dramedy or mindless action. You decide.

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