With the months of increasingly feverish hype surrounding the 'Sex and the City' sequel it was almost bound to be a disappointment. And, alas, despite the fabulous locations, predictably enviable clothing and lavish sets, this just fails to hit the mark on so many levels.

We meet the girls two years on from where the last film left off, and they're facing a new set of challenges. Carrie (Parker) and Big (Noth) have found themselves in a married-life rut. Miranda (Nixon) is facing professional discrimination. Charlotte (Davis) is being driven mad by a difficult two-year-old and Samantha (Cattrall) is pre-empting the onset of menopause, and a floundering libido, with a cocktail of medication.

What to do? An all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi comes their way and they jet off for a holiday of unimaginable opulence - think personal chauffeurs, 24-hour butlers and a new designer wardrobe each for starters. Of course, things can't tick along drama-free for long, and in one of the most ludicrous coincidences you could envisage, Carrie bumps into ex-flame Aidan (Corbett) at a spice market. How very convenient. I shan't divulge any more, but suffice to say the trip throws up more issues than they were escaping from.

My main gripe with the film is a severe lack of the acerbic wit that made the series so watchable. Samantha, usually the most amusing character in the series, is given little to work with other than a few tired, flat one-liners, while Carrie, who throws out so many puns some of them have to raise a chuckle, is reduced to referring to herself as "more Coco Chanel than coq au vin".

Performances across the board are somewhat wooden and stilted - although the charming and slick Chris Noth is as magnetic as ever. A few token cameos from Liza Minnelli, Miley Cyrus and Penélope Cruz do little to detract from the sheer tediousness of the proceedings.

What made the series (and first film to a lesser extent) so absorbing was the genuine warmth, humour and perception associated with it. You genuinely cared about each of the characters, their success, failures, romantic endeavours and disappointments. Here, the emphasis is less on the bond between each of the women than with the fabulous outfits (with a reported $10m budget for costumes they'd want to impress) and ridiculous situations they get themselves into.

'Sex and the City 2' strains against a bloated running time, paper-thin plot and lacking script which no amount of Birkin bags, Louboutin shoes or Dior couture can overcome. Will there be a third movie? I hope not: it's a severe downhill slide here, and I can't see them saving the franchise now. A lesson in style over substance.

Sarah McIntyre