During their lavish Mideast escapade in “Sex and the City 2,” Carrie and the girls gawk at an Arab woman slyly munching French fries through her veil. The scene grabs your attention, then quickly fades away — just like the rest of the movie.

You would think the Abu Dhabi setting — great shopping, problematic sex, at least for women — would provoke more than stale jokes about gays, Arabs and motherhood. For thrills we have to settle for Carrie buying bargain shoes at a market stall and Samantha getting arrested for kissing on a beach.

As the movie starts, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her best friends — Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are ready to escape from New York.

Carrie feels her marriage to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is turning humdrum and Charlotte is a harried mother of two young daughters. Miranda is being harassed by her law-firm boss and Samantha is reeling from the first signs of menopause.

After attending the over-the-top gay wedding of their friends Stanford and Anthony — complete with an all-male chorus, and a song-and-dance by Liza Minnelli — the ladies luck into an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi courtesy of a sheik who wants PR-whiz Samantha to promote his five-star hotel.

“Sex and the City 2” was shot in Morocco after Dubai and Abu Dhabi turned it down. Abu Dhabi, you may recall, is the enlightened place where a teenager who claimed she was gang-raped faced lashing for having sex out of wedlock. (She subsequently retracted her allegations.)

The absurdity of having four liberated American women on the loose in such a sexually repressive place offers bizarre possibilities. All we get, though, is Charlotte falling off a camel while trying to talk on her mobile phone and the girls doing a karaoke version of “I Am Woman” at a glitzy nightclub.


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