Judge Brett Cullum straps on his Manolos and downs Cosmos in the name of research. We swear that's all it is!
Our reviews of Sex And The City: The Complete Fourth Season (published June 4th, 2003), Sex And The City: The Complete Fifth Season (published February 11th, 2004), Sex And The City: Season Six, Part One (published May 31st, 2004), Sex And The City: Season Six, Part Two (published January 5th, 2005), Sex And The City Essentials: Breakups (published February 22nd, 2006), Sex And The City Essentials: Lust (published February 22nd, 2006), Sex And The City Essentials: Mr. Big (published February 22nd, 2006), Sex And The City Essentials: Romance (published February 22nd, 2006), Sex And The City: The Complete Collection (published November 4th, 2010), and Sex And The City: The Movie (Blu-Ray) (published January 7th, 2009) are also available.
Miranda Hobbes [at a bar, drinking Cosmopolitans]: Why did we ever stop
Ten years after the series debuted on HBO, we have Sex and the City for the big screen. Like the television show, it was more popular than anyone could have ever imagined, making it the surprise box office hit of 2008. When you add up domestic and international box office the film made close to $400 million, which makes it one of the most successful R-rated comedies, and the clear winner as the ultimate "chick flick" of all time. The movie has everything it needs to be successful, namely four returning actresses to play the characters everyone loved for the six-year run on television. This review looks specifically at the extended cut DVD which clocks in 16 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. That's two and a half hours of sex, love, shoes, fashion, and girl talk.
Facts of the Case
The story rejoins the girls four years after we left them in the series finale of season six. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, Mars Attacks!) is still with Big (Chris Noth, The Perfect Man), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, Advice from a Caterpillar) remains married to Steve (David Eigenberg, The Mothman Prophecies), Charlotte (Kristin Davis, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D) is raising a daughter with hubby Harry (Evan Handler, Natural Born Killers), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall, Big Trouble in Little China) has moved to Los Angeles with Smith (Jason Lewis, Lucifer). Everything seems wrapped up just like it was in the last television episode, but then things begin to change. Samantha realizes she feels trapped and restricted in a relationship, Charlotte gets a surprise she thinks is too good to be true, Miranda finds out Steve has cheated on her, and Big and Carrie try to make it down the aisle with disastrous results. Can the girls pull each other through life after 40?
There's a huge debate among Sex and the City fans about whether this movie was necessary or smart. The show ended on a perfect note, and every character was exactly where they needed to be to bring closure. The movie was a risky move, and certainly took a while to get it together. Originally they planned on doing it in 2004 right after the end of the broadcast run, but negotiations stalled mainly due to a salary disagreement with Kim Cattrall. The movie was in limbo for years, and it looked like it might never happen. But then three years later with great fanfare, it was announced that they would return to NYC to begin filming. I'm a HUGE fan of the series, and I have to admit I had mixed feelings about "Carrie"-ing on and revisiting what I thought ended years ago at the right time in the story. Sex and the City: The Movie is part money grab and part nostalgia trip, but it still charms.
The reason the silver screen incarnation works is the four actresses do such an amazing job of figuring out how to play their characters as women who are in a different place than what the television show was about. Sex and the City on HBO was about being single and the issues that faced successful career-oriented women who had chosen not to settle down. The film version serves as a coda about women deciding how relationships factor in to their life after all the battles they've been through. Fans have always longed to see the fairy tale ending, and here we have that served up with a sense of how to stay true to the idea the four women are as important to each other as any man. Sex and the City: The Movie is similar to a reunion with old friends, and that's what makes it such a joyful viewing experience.
This Special Edition is a two-disc affair that features the extra long cut as well as some good extras to round things out. It's hard to catalog all the added footage, which includes an extended '80s clothes montage, a Halloween sequence trick or treating, as well as additional character beats that are fun but not crucial. For the extended cut we get a director's commentary from Michael Patrick King who was involved with the show from the start. He does keep things lively, never missing a beat or a chance to tell you about the production and behind-the-scenes. There is a nice sit down conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker and King where they analyze what they both wanted out of the movie, and discuss their relief that it was such a success. After that we get the cast talking about the clothes which are easily a fifth character in the film. We get to hear straight from Patricia Field who labels the movie "the dessert" for the TV show which is the most apt description I've heard. There are a handful of additional scenes you can watch with or without commentary. They are all brief, and they don't add to much more than a beat here and there. Closing out the extras we get a look at Fergie in the studio recording a new theme for the film. You can also access a digital download of the film if you follow the directions on the DVD.
Technically things look fine, but decidedly not spectacular. The transfer honestly looks softer than I thought it would given the fact a BluRay disc was released in tandem with this DVD. Perhaps this comes about because the actresses did not want the sharp focus to show off their aging, or it was a decision to keep things television quality rather than amping up the resolution for the screen. The surround mix serves the film very well. This is a dialogue based story, and there is no distortion. Ambient city sounds are rendered well. There are many versions of the film on DVD, so buyer beware and look at the boxes closely. There is a full screen edition that features the theatrical cut in the boxed ratio. A BluRay edition offers two interactive features not found on this special edition of the film. Yet given the soft transfer and enough extras, I would suggest that this version of the DVD will be the one of choice for most fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Everything feels all too similar and too drawn out. The movie looks a lot like the television show, and at two and a half hours feels like simply a marathon viewing of the series. It seemed long in theaters, and on DVD it definitely feels overstuffed with all the added material. The nice thing is at least on a home video format you can break this all up in to reasonable chunks. I'm torn whether or not to criticize the film for looking like television when obviously that was the source material and they needed to honor the roots. But why make a film that in essence still feels like a TV show? I was slightly disappointed they didn't take advantage of the big screen more, and make things look filmic.
One character in the film that was never on the series is Louise (Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls). She is introduced to help out Carrie as a personal assistant, and was the knee-jerk reaction over criticism we never saw a woman of color play an important role on the television run. Hudson brings her usual charm to the part, but it feels like an add on. She is never necessary, and does not get assimilated in to the core group. Why even bother? I'm also unsure why they felt a need to make her an assistant which makes Carrie's new ethnic friend really hired help.
The women of Sex and the City are now officially throwbacks, and nothing says that more than their obsessions with material things. The television series aired at a time when the economy was better, and now it's hard to watch these gals buy up expensive jewelry and clothes with abandon without thinking it's now shallow. Part of the fantasy of the foursome has always been the fabulous clothes, but it becomes grating after a while when you are pummeled with an endless product placement of the most hefty purchases a girl could even consider. Each purse in the film averages $5,000, and the Vivienne Westwood wedding gown sells for $22,760. Even the "love" key chain Carrie's assistant gives her as a Christmas gift retails for $6,800. Yes, even the key ring is more than most people make in a month. What makes these lavish baubles even more irritating is they drive the plot. The designer gown is the reason the wedding has to be bigger according to Carrie, and Samantha is willing to plop down $50,000 for a flower ring. They flaunt a lifestyle that seems solipsistic to a strong degree, self-centered and gaudy.
If all you ever wanted is "more, more, more" of Sex and the City, then it's easy to grab a copy of Sex and the City: The Movie: Special Edition. It has an extended cut and enough extras to satisfy your cravings for fashion, sex, and romance. Most importantly it has a foursome we've grown to love over a decade, a group of women who have redefined television and how we view girl talk. It's amazing to see a big screen romantic comedy with all the leads in their 40s or 50s, and it's refreshing to see these women as honest to God sex symbols rather than matrons or sad single charity cases. The movie is a celebration of the show, and I can't imagine anyone but fans deciding to check it out. For them the film is a nice add-on to a beloved series. I imagine to everyone else it's something to avoid. But obviously $400 million later, we've learned just how many fans there really are out there. Something tells me this isn't the last we have seen of these women, because there is still so much love for these women.
A guilty, glitzy, glamorous pleasure, Sex and the City: The Movie is the ultimate chick flick.
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