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Sex and the City

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With a two-and-a-half-hour runtime to intimidate curiosity seekers, the eponymous big-screen follow-up to HBO's popular series Sex and the City is strictly for the fans. Taking place over the course of a year, with star Sarah Jessica Parker's will-they-or-won't-they engagement to "Mr. Big" (Chris Noth) at the center and full story arcs from her three sidekicks swirling around, Sex and the City the movie feels like an entire television season crammed into one feature film, which would have been a better artistic choice — if probably less lucrative and surely less agreeable to the actresses involved.

An impressive opening-credit sequence ties the film to the series and gives fans an immediate charge of recognition and pleasure. The women are all back and in standard form: Groan-worthy essayist Carrie Bradshaw (Parker) and sex-crazed publicist Samantha (Kim Cattrall) are colorful, annoying, and unbelievable at the center, while salty attorney Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and charming preppie Charlotte (Kristin Davis) are the likable, relatable wing-women who keep the enterprise from drifting away. (And, though Nixon and Cattrall are pretty game, a fleet of Malibu soft-porn extras have been shipped in to assure the "R" rating.)

The film seems to work pretty well on its own terms: I was more engaged than I anticipated, and the SATC fan in my life was reasonably satisfied. Indeed, the things that are most bothersome about the movie are the things that were most bothersome about the series: The crass materialism and the legion of minor contrivances and bad puns that dot the script.

The rampant, extravagant consumption (throwaway lines about $300 throw pillows and $525 Manolos, the insistence that young women flock to New York in pursuit of "labels") and fiscal nonchalance (shrugging off complications involving Manhattan real-estate deals and high-end resort vacations) in particular make Sex and the City out of touch in the current economic climate.

A final note: Writer-director Michael Patrick King gets demerits for introducing, then failing to show proper appreciation for the great Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St. Louis, a work that mixes lightness and depth in a way that SATC — on small screen or big — can only dream about.

Now playing, multiple locations.

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