Via Ace, who makes a superb point about the reviewer’s description of the film as “blatantly anti-Muslim.” In this as in so much else, different rules apply when constructive criticism is directed at “oppressors” versus “the oppressed.”

I like, though, that he acknowledges how tough it’ll be for leftists to square feminism with disapproval of an officially sanctioned (yet institutionally misogynistic) victim culture.

These wan domestic squabbles are merely prelude to the movie’s major plot development. Samantha is approached by an Arab sheik to devise a PR campaign for his business enterprises, and he offers to fly her and her three gal pals on an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation to Abu Dhabi. (These scenes were filmed in Morocco.) Even in an escapist fantasy, the spectacle of women sinking into this billionaire’s paradise at a time of widespread economic hardship initially seems creepy and off-putting. Soon, however, their Arab sojourn takes unexpected turns. First of all, Carrie encounters her old flame, Aidan (John Corbett), at the spice market, but even more importantly, she and her friends run up against the puritanical and misogynistic culture of the Middle East. The rather scathing portrayal of Muslim society no doubt will stir controversy, especially in a frothy summer entertainment, but there’s something bracing about the film’s saucy political incorrectness. Or is it politically correct? “SATC 2” is at once proudly feminist and blatantly anti-Muslim, which means that it might confound liberal viewers.

Indicative of the film’s contradictory stance is a scene in which the ladies perform a karaoke version of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in an Abu Dhabi nightclub. An equally outrageous moment comes when the interlopers are rescued by a bunch of Muslim women who strip off their black robes to reveal the stylish Western outfits they are concealing beneath their discreet garb. These endearingly loopy scenes exhibit the tasteless humor that enlivened the TV series on its best nights.

It’s absurd that this subject has to be tackled as a goofy subplot in a summer romantic comedy, but on the flip side, it’d never get as wide an audience as a drama as it would sprinkled with SATC sugar — especially among young viewers, who are bound to pack the house for this thing. I was planning to see it anyway since I’m one of the chosen few, but if it’s as sharp as a critique as THR suggests, it might actually achieve a certain political currency. The exit question I never thought I’d ask: Is “Sex and the City” about to become a conservative cause celebre?

Tags: Middle East