Paychecks, no doubt. It can't be to the screenplay.
In a rare quiet and mostly funny moment, which actually gives the two actresses good stuff to play, they're also shoved into a moment of inelegant self-awareness. Why is Michael Patrick King asking our girls to all but break the fourth wall to raise a glass to women who can't afford their lifestyles? It's both a dangling carrot (you want this!) and a pandering hug (we worship your poor-as-dirt asses!) for the fans.
Part of the problem with all of this is scale. The big screen is a different mistress than television. If you want to get specific she's more of a Samantha than a Charlotte. She's ravenous. It makes total sense that Sex & The City went bigger for the first film: more fashions, increased label lust, multiple break-up dramas.
Things have ballooned out of control. Sex & the City 2 is a shameless size queen. The movie forgets that the strength of the franchise is in the small tossed off jokes, interpersonal observations and visual style as decor, not subject matter. Seeing Carrie in an old dress from the series, a brief 80s fashion flashback, Miranda's testiness in a business meeting, the frosty reaction Carrie gets from a judgmental fan, our heroine's glee over a surprisingly cheap pair of shoes… these are all way more entertaining than gaudy multi-million dollar weddings and garish karaoke performances.
Carrie and Big may have downsized their home but the sequel doesn't follow suit. Even the oft ridiculed but actually brilliant costuming and art direction that were on display in the first film seem to be more haphazardly applied. It's put-everything-on-screen! fever. The new film tries at every moment to supersize: bigger star cameos, bigger setpieces, and bigger locales. Last time the girls just went to Mexico but this time, only a $22,000 a night suite in Abu Dhabi with four round-the-clock butlers will do. What's wrong with hanging out with New York City, the fifth girl? The new locale only throws the franchise's worst habits into sharp relief. Offensive caricatures, broad comedy, and tired materialism coming your way.
But all marriages have rough patches. These girls have been married to pop culture for over a decade now. This union has survived endless vicious scrutiny and even, miraculously, the groom's obvious preference for younger women. Forgive them this sequel and hope that the sparkle returns for Sex & The City 3.