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Sex and the City 

The hate some critics hold for Sex and the City: The Movie has been interesting. The mainstream press didn't catch on to what made the HBO series a fraud until near the end of its run. It's the franchise's huge popularity that's now a threat: Viewers hate on movies representing lifestyles alien to their own. It's why old critics are down on "MTV style," and why geeks who live on IMDb give low marks to movies about hip-hop and sports. And remember, it wasn't just that Matrix fans couldn't relate to raves, simply watching a rave in The Matrix Reloaded made them furious.

The threat many critics skate around in Sex and the City reviews overestimates its impact. Fact is, as a movie about adult female sexuality, it isn't nearly enough.

As a chief creative hand on the series, writer and director Michael Patrick King loses his chance to make this big-screen finale a raunchy girl-fronted sex comedy---what 2002's The Sweetest Thing, starring Cameron Diaz, didn't satisfactorily pull off. Instead, it's tuneless and joyless, more concerned with its brand-name prestige than being any fun.

Two and a half hours is a long time to devote to a light take on relationship woes. As with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Speed Racer, more goodwill would be held toward Sex and the City were it less indulgently long. But Sex and the City has the most haphazard structure of those movies.

What begins as a story about New York sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) planning her wedding with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), leads into a second hour, starting at a Mexican resort, that's free of conflict. King wishes to give the series' fans more, without delivering a legitimate movie in the process.

This works only on the basis of its cast's dynamic. Parker and castmates Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis are responsible for the show's primary strength. Beyond its predictable zingers and incredulous journalism scenes (Carrie's editors should have tried by now to stop her from asking questions beginning with "Was Miranda right..." in every column), it presents a developed bond of female camaraderie. Dramatic satisfaction is forsaken for a belief that hanging out with these girls is satisfaction enough. Long sections of Tarantino's Death Proof have a similar ethos. It's Sex and the City's ultimate values that undersell the unconventional route.

Elevating Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha as mainstream-feminist-breakthrough icons, with audiences hooting and hollering at the pretty tame sex humour, doesn't payoff in the movie's conservative understanding of the meaning of success: Move into an apartment you can't afford, get hitched and spend, spend, spend.

The luxury portrayed isn't a problem in itself. It's the lack of satiric perspective in Sex and the City that's always bothered me. The leads' class and racial privileges are never acknowledged, allowing shallow viewers to embrace it as their fantasy. Jennifer Hudson appearing as Carrie's assistant is too late in this final round. Her token casting is less admirable than if King would finally just comment on Sex and the City's white delusions.

The film version now had a chance to bring to its loyal audience a sophistication missing from relationship comedies. Women should be offended that Hollywood "Women's Films" are generally about organizing perfect weddings and finding the right men. More of the same isn't good enough.

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