Review: 'Sex and the City'

A glorified TV episode – and a rather middling one at that.

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

To put it mildly, I am not an aficionado of the HBO TV series "Sex and the City." For all I know, Manolo Blahnik could be the name of a toreador from Latvia. This qualifies me as either the best or the worst person to review the new movie.

But connoisseurship is a much overrated quality in critics, so I'll make the case here that by approaching this material fresh – i.e., as someone who has never attended a "viewing party" for the TV show – I'm giving it the fairest of shakes.

Still, you have to wonder: Do even SATC fanatics crave a glorified TV episode, and a rather middling one at that? The TV's show's creative honcho, writer-director Michael Patrick King, has called this 2-1/2-hour movie "The Lord of the Engagement Rings." I'm not sure he's being ironic. It reportedly features over 300 makeovers among the four female leads. (Does that include all those strappy sandals?) At times, the movie resembled nothing so much as Kabuki with Cosmos.

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King kicks off the movie with uncharacteristically fast-paced updates. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is back from Paris and big with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), with whom she's scouting a Fifth Avenue penthouse (her fantasy aerie, his money). Overworked Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is ensconced in Brooklyn with her guilt-ridden (don't ask) husband Steve (Dave Eigenberg) and young son.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis), is guilt-ridden because she and her loving hubby Harry (Evan Handler) and adopted baby girl from China are so, well – happy. (Even more good stuff happens to her in the course of the movie. What's a poor girl to do?)

Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has conquered her cancer and heads up a talent agency in Los Angeles where she handles, if that's the right word, her hunky live-in boyfriend Smith (Jason Lewis). She has a difficult time committing to one man – even one who appears to have been chiseled by Rodin – and is forever flying to New York to provide aid and comfort and costume changes.

There's also a welcome new addition: Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's gal Friday. She's younger than the leading ladies (that's good for audience demographics) and African-American (previously the show was whiter than an ice floe).

Thanks to the show's huge following and its lucrative afterlife on DVD and in syndication, SATC still has its rabid followers. It is even, heaven help us, iconic. Artifacts from the show are housed in the Smithsonian. But is it such a big deal anymore to hear women talk about sex as crudely as men do? This was always a prime reason for the TV show's bond-a-thon appeal – this and all the hearts and flowers that the cast threw at each other.

The series functioned primarily as a giddy, foul-mouthed soap opera for women over 30; it was lapped up as a liberation from good taste. But there was nothing especially feminist about the show. (And yes, I caught up with some old episodes, OK?) The same is true of the movie. The SATC universe is indubitably man-centric.

The commercial success of "The Devil Wears Prada" is largely the reason this movie was made. (An attempt four years ago was sunk by contractual disputes.) It's wonderful that films specifically for and about women are being made – especially women over 30, which in Hollywood years is something like 80. But the inevitable (I think) success of SATC will likely just lead to SATC II and assorted knockoffs.

Still, as gender-segregated experiences go, SATC is preferable to, say, that idiotic beefcake epic "300." The amusing thing about SATC is that it objectifies – fetishizes – men in much the same way that most male-oriented movies objectify women. This is poetic, or prosaic, justice indeed. Maybe one day both sides of the gender gap can meet in the middle and distinguish each other as, you know, human.

In the meantime, can someone please explain to me what that thing is called on Carrie's head that looks like a butterfly-encrusted corsage trapped in a terrarium? Grade: B-. (Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.)

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