Sex and the City

I never watched HBO’s “Sex and the City” because it didn’t appeal to me. It seemed to be about four superficial, materialistic women who pranced around New York talking about men and shoes. My interest was diminished further by the way so many people tried to adopt the show’s lifestyle as their own — a shallow copy of something that was shallow to begin with. I guess it’s not fair to hold it against the show that some of its fans sought to be as artificial as it was, but hey, I’m not a TV critic. I don’t have to be fair.

So I approach the new film version with something less than enthusiasm, well aware that it wasn’t made for me anyway. My reward? A few laughs, a couple of likable characters, and a running time of nearly 2 1/2 hours.

Two and a half hours?! Who thought it was a good idea to turn a 30-minute sitcom into an epic-length film? An epic-length film that feels like — you guessed it — five episodes strung together. There’s no reason for this to be a movie. Nothing happens on the big screen that could not have happened on HBO, and the characters’ lives are not changed any more dramatically than they could have been on TV. It’s a movie only because movies make a lot more money than made-for-HBO specials do.

The film picks up four years after the show’s 2004 finale. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) are still together and considering marriage. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are both married to nice guys, with varying degrees of happiness between them. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is living in L.A. with her far-too-young movie-star boy toy Smith (Jason Lewis) but misses the girls back in NYC.

It is my understanding that giving away any details of the film’s plot will result in my death at the hands of Manolo-knock-off-wearing SATC wannabes, so I shall refrain. I sure was sad when Carrie died, though! (Just kidding, ladies! Put the stilettos down!)

From as objective a standpoint as I can manage, the film is not put together well. The story (written and directed by regular SATC collaborator Michael Patrick King) is episodic and lurching; it has a beginning and an end, but the 90 minutes in the middle don’t have the peaks and valleys that a story ought to have. Much of it feels like fashion porn: No matter what’s happening, there’s always time to grind things to a halt and play dress-up for a few minutes. A subplot with Jennifer Hudson as Carrie’s new personal assistant goes nowhere and serves no purpose. I know this was made for the fans, but geez, was there no attempt to make it a good film?

The women’s problems range from the melodramatic to the infuriatingly superficial. “I have to spend all the advance money I got for my new book on an interior designer!” “Oh no, I accidentally left a $400 pair of shoes in my old apartment!” “My picture is in Vogue magazine, and now I’m embarrassed!” “This luxury penthouse is beautiful, but the closet is too small!” Wait a minute, those are all just Carrie. Tell me again why people like her? And come on, Sarah Jessica, lighten up. Why the long face?

(I’ll tell you who I like, though: Charlotte and Samantha. Charlotte seems optimistic and sweet, and Samantha’s tart frankness makes me laugh.)

The film tries to tell us that the most important thing, ultimately, is love, but I’m not sure it really believes that. Designer labels and clownish couture and funny-looking purses that cost hundreds of dollars seem to be every bit as important to the women’s lives as finding their soulmates. And again I wonder: Why would I want to spend a protracted 148 minutes with people like that?

The answer is that I wouldn’t. A movie review isn’t really relevant, though. Viewers of the TV show will see the film either way, and non-viewers won’t see it either way. Will the fans like the movie? Probably. Some of the elements that I cite as minuses might be pluses to regular SATC devotees. I can only report my experience, as a “Sex and the City” novice, which is that I was bored a lot of the time, laughed now and then, and wouldn’t repeat the experience without first drinking several cosmos.

C (2 hrs., 28 min.; R, some harsh profanity, a fair amount of nudity and strong sexuality, some vulgar dialogue.)