Sex and the City (R) **

 

The lumbering movie version of HBO's Sex and the City turns out to be more disappointment than joyful reunion.

Sex and the City
Sarah Jessica Parker stars as “Carrie Bradshaw” and Chris Noth stars as “Mr. Big” in New Line Cinema’s Sex and the City. Photo:Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema.
 

By Connie Ogle, Miami Herald 

The Vivienne Westwood wedding gown is gorgeous, as are the pivotal Manolo Blahniks. Miranda's softer hairstyle is extremely flattering, and there are enough ''What is she wearing!?'' moments to please the most dedicated fan of extreme fashion.

But the lumbering movie version of HBO's Sex and the City turns out to be more disappointment than joyful reunion, a tedious and desperately drawn-out affair that tests your patience even as it brazenly courts (and often earns) your contempt. Stretching a 30-minute TV show into a longer-than-average, feature-length film is always a mistake, of course, as is assuming that SATC fans will blithely enjoy any random arrangement of dramatic and comedic moments so long as they involve shopping, couture, break-ups, make-ups and hot, naked guys.

The story, such as it is, picks up three years after the series ended, with our heroines paired off with husbands or boyfriends, all in or near NYC, except for Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who has moved to L.A. with gorgeous actor Smith (Jason Lewis). She flies into town every other day, though, so it's all good. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) are looking for a place to live. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) are sparring as usual, and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Harry (Evan Handler) are blissfully happy with their adopted Chinese daughter.

We learn there will be a wedding and a Vogue shoot. Carrie wears a bird on her head. Excellent. But then the break-ups begin. We are treated to more shopping, several pointless and increasingly annoying fashion montages and more feminine squealing than can be healthy for anyone. If my friends shrieked this much every time they laid eyes on me, I'd have them Baker Acted.

Even more disconcerting is the girl-power road trip to Mexico, which seems to exist solely for the benefit of a lame diarrhea joke. Also in that vein is a series of humping-dog gags that have apparently wandered onscreen straight from an Adam Sandler movie. SATC has never been known for sophisticated humor, but its raunchy banter has always been delicious and invigorating. A humping dog makes 10-year-old boys laugh, not grown women with eyes for Louis Vuitton.

But then, that's another problem with SATC: It's self-indulgent, showing us scenes of the girls as they hit Fashion Week, merely because the production budget is big enough to allow them to be there. Maybe the weakened economy is affecting me, or I grew weary of the shopping porn, but this grasping consumption is off-putting in a way it never was on TV. Maybe there's simply too much of what used to be a good thing.

Worst of all, though, is the evisceration of Carrie and Mr. Big. America's favorite rich, white-guy playa dithers like a nervy schoolgirl and even at one point -- brace yourself -- recites poetry. He's de-Bigged. His behavior is so out of character that it compromises our affection for Carrie. Despite Parker's considerable grace and charm, our beloved Carrie no longer is someone we really want to hang out with.

Writer/director Michael Patrick King may think women watched the TV show to daydream about acquiring things: a new bag, a new apartment, a man. But though the shoes are nice, we responded to a different fantasy: That we might always have time for our best friends and long talks and Cosmos, that we'll always be close despite busy lives. SATC is best when it realizes that fact: A concerned Carrie traipsing out through the snow on New Year's Eve to comfort a weepy Miranda is the film's emotional highlight.

Still, Willie Garson, who plays Carrie's gay friend Stanford, was right when he said during a red carpet interview that SATC was a ''critic-proof film.'' Loyal fans will flock to the theaters to see their heroes no matter what they read in reviews. It's a shame the filmmakers didn't give them a film that's the perfect fit for their devotion.

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, Jennifer Hudson

Director/screenwriter: Michael Patrick King

Producers: Eric M. Cyphers, Michael Patrick King, John P. Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Star

A New Line Cinema release. Running time: 148 minutes. Strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.

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