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Once upon a time, there was 'Sex in the City'

New Line Cinema

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - Can "Sex and the City" be just a movie - or does it have to carry the weight of feminism and social commentary, all the while teetering on precarious 4-inch Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels?

That's a question Carrie Bradshaw might have asked after scanning a theater jam-packed with more women than seats. With many clutching cosmos, the women in this preview audience Wednesday night were obviously psyched about catching up with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her gal pals Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis).

"Sex and the City" is more than a movie and was always more than just an ordinary TV show. It's a glittery fairy tale for grown up women. The women may not be princesses, but they sure dress like them -- and that's a large part of the "Sex..." appeal.

The movie revels in fashion, providing ultimately more eye candy than food for thought. One memorable montage has Carrie modeling a series of spectacular designer wedding gowns for a Vogue photo shoot. Another has Carrie sashaying in some of the more iconic and outrageous outfits from the TV show - including the ballerina princess tutu from the opening credits - as her friends vote for her to keep or toss each dress in her closet.

In this Emerald City, labels may be just as important as love.

Decked out in show-stopping outfits, the women each go in search of love and find it -- in their enduring friendship, their complicated relationships with men and even in themselves. Along their way to "happily ever after" -- or its modern versions --they overcome a variety of obstacles: infidelity, narcissism, secrecy and social expectations.

If the audience still hasn't gotten the message -- sex in the city has given way to love in the city -- the payoff comes with the contemporary equivalent of the glass slipper.

So how captivating is this latest chapter?

Of course, it's fun to see old friends. In a summer filled with Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Batman, the Incredible Hulk and undoubtedly some gross-out adolescent comedy, it's fun to see women -- middle-aged women at that -- at the center of the action.

So is it too churlish to say that the writing doesn't seem as giddy, pointed or as brash as the best TV episodes? A couple of the subplots, including one featuring Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's assistant from St. Louis, is especially banal. And, for all the buzz about the plot's twists and turns, the story line offers little new, surprising or revelatory. Each woman lands exactly where you expect -- maybe even want -- her to.

But isn't that the point? Who wants a fairy tale with an unhappy ending?

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