Hollywood is unfair. Ninety percent of movies are aimed at males between the ages of 12 and 25. Most of the rest are targeted at females in the same age range. Studios don't make many films for people over 30, especially not women. Then when they do, they offer something like "Sex and the City 2": Barbie for grownups. And here's the kicker. Women are so starved for women-centered films that they've embraced this stereotypical trifle as an event movie.

Though the 2 in the title implies a double shot of everything fans loved about the series, there is less. Whatever natural chemistry and witty banter Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her handmaidens shared in the HBO TV series is absent here. There is less Sex, since three of the four fashionistas are in settled relationships and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), everyone's favorite mature skank, is swabbing herself with Youth Tonic to reverse the effects of menopause. There is less (New York) City, since half the film occurs in Abu Dhabi. And there are smaller comedic ambitions: When you see camels, you can't count to 20 in your head before the inevitable camel-toe joke.

Also diminished is the twig-sized Parker, who looks as if she subsists on a diet of martinis and breath mints. Next to her the well-fed Cattrall looks like a blond Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman. Charlotte and Miranda (Kristen Davis and Cynthia Nixon) scarcely register as the quartet's third and fourth wheels. And there is no Jennifer Hudson at all, as the Oscar-winning actress opted not to reprise her cameo role as Carrie's assistant. Well played, Miss Hudson.

You could not call the plot precision-tooled. It opens with a big gay wedding/musical dance number, melding the worst aspects of a Fire Island costume ball and a really excessive bar mitzvah.

The ceremony features a squadron of chorus boys in white tuxedos and sequined top hats, two Liza Minnelli impersonators, and the actual Liza. After spending a good quarter-hour focusing on the gala, whose "brooms" (bride + groom, get it?) play no further part in the story, you may ask yourself "Why did that just happen?" It's a question that recurs throughout the film's 146 minutes.

As before, the acting is abysmal. Davis still performs like a 10-year-old in a talent show that nobody is really interested in seeing. Many years into Parker's career they still haven't found the correct angle from which to photograph her. The camera hardens her severe features, and her taut smile seems unnatural, as if it was Photoshopped onto her kisser.

The story repurposes moth-eaten plotlines. Carrie grapples with a stale relationship as her dreamboat hubby Mr. Big (Chris Noth) becomes a couch potato, and old flame Aiden (John Corbett) temptingly reappears. Miranda is being drawn away from her husband and child by the demands of her law practice. Charlotte is overwhelmed by her girls and threatened by their competent, cheerful, nubile nanny. They fret about the problems Hollywood people have -- losing sexual desirability, not spending enough time with the kids. These are the sort of notions that could float a half-hour episode of the TV series, but daisy-chaining them does not a 2 1/2-hour film make.

The out-of-nowhere trip to the Mideast is a head-scratcher. Samantha announces, "I can feel the decadence," demonstrating a wobbly grasp of Muslim social values. Once there she behaves with a self-important arrogance topped only by her colossal ignorance. Her smug assumption that she's incredibly hot, timeless and irresistible to men could have set up some great jokes. Except for one quick gag featuring Miley Cyrus, that wish-fulfillment fantasy goes unchallenged. Cattrall's character takes on the mantle of a 21st-century Mae West, or a female Austin Powers, a goofy artifact of swingin' sexism, but writer/director Michael Patrick King seems to view her as a figure of female empowerment. As a result, it's hard to sympathize when she gets into hot water. All I can say is if you go to Abu Dhabi to wear hot pants and do lewd pelvic thrusts at the locals while waving a belt-length pack of Trojans, you probably deserve what you get.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186