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“Sex and the City 2″: Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is why they hate us.

"Sex and the City 2": Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is why they hate us. (photo)

"Sex and the City 2" isn't just awful, it's an accidental candid snapshot of the sick, dying heart of America.

The movie’s privileged cluelessness reaches an early zenith when Miranda impulsively quits her cushy job at a law firm because her boss is sexist, and springs the decision on her husband (David Eigenberg) during her son’s grade school recital. “Good for you, honey!” he exclaims. “I’ll get another job, a better job!” she assures him. “I already called the headhunter.” They should have ended the scene by having a giant bag of money fall out of the sky and land at her feet.

Very rarely, if ever, do the characters, much less the filmmaker, suggest that they’re all living in a bubble — which is something that even the most wealth-obsessed escapist comedies produced during the Depression somehow managed to do with regularity, as a means of preserving their implicit agreement not to take the masses’ hard-earned money and slap them across the face with it.

Never does “Sex and the City 2″ acknowledge, even obliquely, that what Carrie and her pals consider “normal” and “comfortable” is not only foreign to the existence of 99% of the population, but that it might in fact be a sign of obscene excess, the spiritual equivalent of carrying around 200 extra pounds — mountains of fat produced by an unhealthy upbringing and an addictive, soul-dead, self-loathing mindset, fat that cannot be characterized as a matter of genetic destiny no matter how desperately the afflicted person tries to rationalize it as such. When I watch these women sashay through their designer-labeled lives, I don’t see escapism: I see pools of bloody runoff gathered in the gutters of a diner’s grill. That shit’ll kill you.

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At certain moments, “Sex and the City 2″ goes so far beyond mere wealth porn that it tips into a sci-fi/fantasy mindset, presenting setpieces so glitzy, so overscaled and so unhinged that they seem like something that Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Bruno might have fantasized in an opium den. A couple of examples spring to mind. One is the opening wedding ceremony between the heroines’ gay friends (by which I mean accessories), Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone) and Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson). It features a tuxedoed and top-hatted male choir singing show tunes and a guest appearance by Liza Minnelli (who both officiates and does a scorching cover of “All the Single Ladies”).

Even grander and weirder is the gang’s karaoke performance of an atrociously remixed “I Am Woman” in an Abu Dhabi nightclub that sports a groovy multicultural clientele and a raised, circular platform festooned with belly dancers. At moment like these, it seems as pointless to accuse the film of vulgar incoherence as it does to call “Transformers 2″ a celebration of phony-macho frat boy wankery. Water is wet; the sky is blue; this movie is what it is. And what it is is precisely what its audience wants it to be — and more. (You ordered a Double Whopper with cheese? Here you go, kiddo — take two!)

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At the same time, though, much like “Transformers 2″ (hmmm, “Sex” director Michael Patrick King as the gay camp version of Michael Bay — or is that a redundancy?), “Sex and the City 2″ is more than harmless escapism. It’s an accidental candid snapshot of the sick, dying heart of America, a film so pleased with its vacuous, trashy, art-free extravagance that its poster should be taped to the dingy walls of terrorist sleeper agents worldwide. More depressing and alarming than the movies themselves is the notion that a certain culture, a certain mindset, birthed it, without a pang of remorse or even apparent self-awareness, much less self-criticism. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why they hate us.

Matt Zoller Seitz is our guest critic for the month of May.

“Sex and the City 2″ opens wide on May 27th.

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