by Mel Valentin
Four years after "Sex and the City," the controversial HBO series that frankly explored sexual issues (among others) through the lives of four women living in New York City, signed off for what seemed to be the final time, it’s back, this time as an eagerly anticipated feature-length. With executive producer and writer Michael Patrick King taking on screenwriting and directing duties on the feature length film, "Sex and the City: The Movie" (the official title) returns with much of the frank sexual humor and many of the romantic complications that made the series so popular during its six year run on HBO. Alas, at almost 2 and ½ hours, "Sex and the City" is overlong, self-indulgent, and, ultimately, unnecessary.Sex and the City: The Movie picks up four years after the series ended, with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), a columnist and writer, still dating Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a.k.a. John James Preston, but eager to move their relationship to the next level (i.e., moving in together). Big, a wealthy financier, agrees to purchase a pricey penthouse apartment. He even agrees to redo the closets (too small for all of Carrie’s clothes and shoes). Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), has settled into comfortable domesticity with her divorce lawyer husband, Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler. The marriage of Carrie’s other friend, Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), a Type A, work-obsessed lawyer to Steve Brady (David Eigenberg), a former bartender turned house husband, is on a downward spiral. The sexually adventurous Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), a publicist turned manager to her boyfriend, Jerry 'Smith' Jerrod (Jason Lewis), flits between LA (where he works) and New York (to spend time with her friends and go shopping).
"Overlong, self-indulgent, and, ultimately, unnecessary."
But Sex and the City wouldn’t have a reason to make the jump from the small screen to the big screen unless something monumental or epic happened in Carrie’s life. It does. Big proposes marriage to Carrie and she accepts. Big’s hopes for a small, quiet wedding go awry when a Vogueeditor, Enid Frick (Candice Bergen), asks Carrie to pose for a special feature on the last single girl in New York to get married (never mind that Carrie’s crossed the 40-year old threshold). The small wedding becomes an event wedding, leaving Big anxious and fearful of the future. Meanwhile, Steve reveals a past indiscretion to Miranda that threatens their marriage, Charlotte learns that she’s pregnant for the first time, and Samantha begins to feel trapped in her relationship with Jerrod. Oh, and Carrie gets a personal assistant, Louise (Jennifer Hudson), to help her organize her professional (and, eventually, her personal) life.
By the time Sex and the City reaches the end of its laboriously overlong 2 and ½ hour run time, if you’re not entirely exhausted, then, chances are, you’re a fervent fan of the series happy to spend an extended episode or second series finale for a night. If you’re not a fervent fan or even if you’re a once, long-ago fan (as in four years long ago), then Sex and the City is bound to feel like an unneeded, superfluous trip down Carrie Lane (because it is). Nothing really changes, not the characters or even the status quo of the series finale (with the exception of Samantha). Instead, Sex and the City is overstuffed with complications for each of the characters, they hem and haw, they procrastinate and, on occasionally prevaricate, but ultimately, they, like the audience, are reminded of what’s really important in life: conspicuous consumption and the means, whether through a high-paying, career-oriented job (for Samantha and Miranda) or through marriage or partnership to a wealthy or well-off man (for Carrie and Charlotte).And therein lies the rub. If you thought that "Sex and the City" featured incredibly self-centered, shallow, superficial characters obsessed with exactly two things in life: romance and shopping, then well, you’d be right. That doesn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t or didn’t enjoy the series and won’t enjoy the feature-length film version. There’s a fair amount of the observational humor, character quirks, and, occasionally, raunch, to keep audiences engaged, but with the sharp turn into melodrama that marks the second act (after a lengthy first act), the humor all but disappears for the better part of an hour until the characters (especially one in particular) find their emotional bearings again. Until then, alas, "Sex and the City" is a slow slog through a fantasy world of apolitical conspicuous consumption few of us live in.
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originally posted: 05/29/08 21:00:00