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Sex and the City 2

A lavish vacation, personal butlers, endless closets of designer clothes and best of all, incredibly hunky men in the buff — with no qualms about close-ups you-know-where.

Welcome to paradise, ladies! This is a place called Sex and the City 2, where a woman’s every desire is anticipated, and no outfit is left behind. In the sequel to the television show’s big-screen debut in 2008, the four fashionable besties are back with a new set of growing pains and relationship problems, plus a whole lot of Louis Vuitton — and Dior and Chanel and Dolce — to ease the angst. Now that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is hitched, Miranda’s (Cynthia Nixon) marriage is intact, Charlotte’s (Kristin Davis) a mother of two and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is her same orgasmic self, there’s no fun left in the Big Apple, unless you count watching Liza Minnelli dance like Beyonce without pants. So what’s a woman to do? Head for the Middle East, obviously, where new money meets ancient tradition and each character has a little music to face.

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It’s here in Abu Dhabi that the women’s new issues get stirred up like a sandstorm and it’s quickly apparent that — sad but true — age happens. The ever-whining Carrie learns about the marriage-thing that she wanted for the better part of a decade on HBO, while Samantha struggles with menopause (seriously). Miranda’s issue gets wrapped up quickly, leaving her to counsel Charlotte, who finally logs in some gripes of her own. With its heavy-handed humor and well-worn characters, Sex unfolds like one long sit-com. There’s not much nuance to these women, but they sure know how to stay true to form, complete with flowing cocktails, quality shopping and some serious heart-to-hearts.

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Still, while the appeal of Sex and the City has long been a mystery to those who missed its cultural moment, the second installment suddenly makes it all clear. This is a film that is truly for women, like a gift of self-indulgence that they would never give themselves (is it a coincidence that it was a man who adapted the book series for TV, and wrote both films?). In this lush oasis, it’s OK to envy the hot, bra-less nanny for whom Botox is still decades away. When a team of sculpted, speedo-sporting rugby players splash in the pool, of course it’s in slow-motion! And when the proverbial s–t hits the fan, it’s safe to admit that maybe being a mom isn’t enough or that getting older just sucks, no matter how many sequins you’re wearing.

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Amid the many over-the-top antics that the second Sex film shamelessly peddles, the heart and soul of the franchise are still somehow intact. Samantha speaks for it in a crowded Abu Dhabi market, when robed clerics close in to denounce her bare shoulders and the condoms that rained from her purse. Forget cultural sensitivity: It’s pure rage that takes over as she throws her sexuality in their faces, to hilarious effect. It’s this voice, unapologetic and self-aware, that keeps the foursome fresh enough and relevant long after their days as single city girls are over. It’s also, it seems, what keeps their biggest fans coming back for more, whether the sequins still look hot or not.

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