If you were even a casual fan of SEX AND THE CITY when it was airing on HBO then I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy the new big-screen adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals. SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is a breezy, funny, and pumped-up chick-flick that was a better overall movie than I had anticipated. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King (who oversaw the HBO series) and executive produced by creator Darren Star, SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE (***) delivers just about everything you’d expect: sex-centric laughs, emotional outbursts, over-designed outfits, look-at-me handbags and shoes, female and male nudity, and enough witty one-liners to choke a horse. And while there wasn’t anything particularly envelope-pushing about the content (something the TV show did on a regular basis) or extremely surprising from a narrative point of view, it’s the charm of the terrific cast and the snappy pace that seals the deal on this much anticipated reunion of estrogen.
After a quick and snazzy opening credits sequence (during which that catchy theme music plays) that fills the audience in on what’s been going on since the characters were last seen during the series finale a few years ago, the movie starts building a number of plot-lines. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is still with “Big” (Chris Noth) and the two lovebirds are looking at swanky NYC apartments, though, he hasn’t proposed yet. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is living in Los Angeles with her younger boyfriend, Smith, and working as his manager; he’s become a huge television star. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) are still married but are having problems. And Charlotte (Kristin Davis, always my personal favorite) is having a ball being a mom; she and her husband Harry (Evan Handler) have adopted a cute little girl. The ladies are still close as ever, even with Samantha on the opposite coast. The camaraderie between the actresses, which was infectious on the television show, is still very much apparent in the film; the chemistry between them is as sweet as candy.
However, things get complicated quickly, when Big proposes to Carrie. And at the risk of divulging any spoilers, I will only discuss plot elements that have been glimpsed in the trailers. Everyone can guess that Carrie’s wedding isn’t going to go smooth (it doesn’t) but I won’t reveal what happens to her relationship with Big. Miranda and Steve have constantly battled each other throughout the years, and that aspect of their relationship doesn’t change in the film. Samantha is still sex-obsessed, and since Smith is too busy with his career, she starts to get impatient. Especially when she realizes that an Italian hunk (cleverly named Dante) is living next door (and frequently showering naked outside). The movie essentially riffs on all the plot schematics that were touched upon during the television years, but does everything bigger, louder, and sexier. The ladies go to over the top fashion shows and go out for expensive meals, there is a wedding dress montage that really needs to be seen to be believed, and the sex scenes sizzle with comedic zing.
All of the performances hit their mark. I’ve never found Parker to be particularly attractive, though she certainly has her moments, one of which, while in a flowing, blue dress, is especially striking. But what I like about the character of Carrie is her ability to make you like her, even if she’s being a spoiled little princess. There’s a level of emotional confidence that Parker brings to this character, and it should also be noted that her comedic timing is very sharp. Cattrall steals every scene she appears in, just as she did on the series. Her sexually blunt comments are still sharp as a tack and it’s refreshing to see a 50 year old actress as comfortable in her birthday suit as Cattrall seems to be in hers; she’s a true cougar in wait. She’s also extremely funny which adds to her sexiness. Nixon always had the thorniest character in Miranda, and her neurotic tendencies still made me grit my teeth. Noth ruffles his eyebrows and flexes Big’s wallet with aplomb, even if he is kind of scary looking. Davis’ Charlotte always felt like the fourth friend, and it still feels that way in the movie. But it’s the way that Davis infuses Charlotte with just the right level of naiveté and spunk that reminded me of why I always liked her character the best.
SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE runs at nearly two-and-a-half hours, but thanks to the quick pacing and smooth editing, it never drags for a moment. I could have used a little bit more of Carrie’s satiric voice-over (which was always one of my favorite aspects of the show) but her narration does pop up from time to time which lends an extra inner quality to the proceedings. I also expected something sexually outrageous to happen, which was always the selling point of the television series. Whether it was sexually explicit dialogue or steamy encounters, the series always pushed the boundaries of what people had seen in this genre. But considering the Apatowization of the current Hollywood comedy, there really don’t seem to be any more taboos to break. But this isn’t a deep, realistic movie by any stretch. The show always was a farce about sex and relationships, and King never loses sight of that fact. All of the creative parties know what to do with this material, and they all seem to have fun doing it. And with a film like this, that’s all that one can really ask for. Making big-budget movie versions of television shows has proven to be a tricky endeavor. King and his excellent cast have delivered a love letter to all the show’s fans, and judging from the reaction in my sold out theater, there will be plenty of takers all summer.
Some critics have complained that SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is shallow and conceited and a little too up-its-own-ass. Well…duh! That’s the way the show always was, so why would the movie be any different? This isn’t a documentary or a “slice of life,” rather, it’s a piece of female wish fulfillment that is quite similar to, oh, let’s say, the action film BAD BOYS 2. It’s a film made by someone with complete mastery of the genre (King has a way with the female mind and handbags much like Michael Bay has a way with exploding automobiles and machine-gun bullets) and it’s a film that revels in its own excess. It’s style galore, it’s fashion-porn, and it’s just the sort of thing that will delight female dominated audiences around the world. Some critics feel that SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE sends the wrong message to young women, but to be honest, I think that’s a lot of hogwash. If women are actually taking life-lessons from this movie or from the television series then they have a lot of explaining and growing up to do. This is as unrealistic a film as the above mentioned BAD BOYS 2; people shouldn’t read too much into it. SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE is a fun, stylish romp with old friends that shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than it deserves to be. It’s a fan-girl movie that delivers what the fan-girls have been craving.