Popcorn: “Sex and the City” – E.T. Phones for Help – 2 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

Point of disclosure: I have never witnessed one episode of “Sex and the City.” Nope, not when it was first making waves for its frankness on HBO, nor during its extended life in rerun. My opinion of Michael Patrick King’s big screen reprise might as well represent the Martian point of view.

All the same, Carrie and Co. return in what is unabashedly the ultimate flick chick. It is what it is. Which means it has fans, and hence deserves more than an offhanded “whatever” as appraisal. So I have obtained help from your planet. Coming to my aid in an interplanetary cultural change is Earthling Erin Grace Goldberger, my daughter.

Rest assured there was no nepotism involved in my choice. A recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in professional writing and a minor in photojournalism and digital imaging, she is fully qualified to impart the thoughts which have been chosen to intersperse and thus balance this review.

Which reminds me…to those candidates from Harvard, Brown and Northwestern, thank you for your resumes. You can be justifiably proud that prior to my making a very difficult decision, you were duly considered. Your monographs on “Sex and the City” were all excellent. Unfortunately, my daughter Erin’s was much better. Good luck.

“Sex and the City,” the movie, isn’t quite as blunt in its update on the mores, folkways and wiles of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie, Kim Cattrall’s Samantha, Kristin Davis’s Charlotte and Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda. Times change, even in so little time. Originally bawdy, then toned down for TBS, it is now, albeit R-rated, hardly drastic.

Informs Erin: “My age group (22 +) is really the youngest to have watched the show on HBO (unedited). I found it funny that the theater was filled with 16-year-olds who watched the censored TBS versions and now claim the franchise their own. You heard a few gasps in the audience as the sex was escalated. Actually, that’s how the show was.”

On Mars we knew that part of the fantasy appeal was the clothes. But now, the fashion statement seems curious. Relates Ms. Goldberger: “It’s silly, over the top. New York isn’t like that. It’s more ‘in’ to wear vintage stuff that you found in your Aunt Tilly’s closet.”

Far more successful is that feature which even an extraterrestrial could surmise is the saga’s most important aspect: the joyful qualities of friendship. Less astute, or maybe I’m just taking the alien line, is its view on the war between the sexes. Still, there are moments when the writing handles both subjects with heartfelt panache.

The plot structure is simple to a fault. The gals have lives within as well as outside the friendship, and always the twain shall meet. They gather regularly, usually at lunch, to update on whatever calamities or joys befall. Advice and criticism attend in quips, much like bromides you’d hear from a radio shrink.

Of central concern is Miss Parker’s Carrie, a successful writer who’s been keeping company for some time with Big (Chris Noth), a twice-divorced, well-to-do financier. Beyond his wealth, the dullard’s appeal is a mystery. But just to complicate matters, he brings up the M word. A condo dubbed Heaven on Fifth Ave. is part of the bait.

Doubtless there are women who will take umbrage at all the oohing, ahhing and swooning Carrie exudes as regards the closet to be housed within the hardly humble abode. But Heaven is short-lived when Big does a big no, no, giving our heroine of love the opportunity to slip into Hell hath no fury mode.

She exiles to a tony Mexican resort, her commiserating handmaidens in tow. The timeout for healing reminds of the Reno pity parties in George Cukor’s “The Women” (1939), only much less funny. That is, unless you consider it particularly hilarious when Charlotte finds herself the victim of Montezuma’s revenge.

Here, away from the rigors of more costume changes than Loretta Young made in any one TV season, the gang takes inventory of their loves, losses and future prospects. Lawyer Miranda’s marriage has fallen on tough times. Lusty Samantha’s long relationship with a soap opera star is hampering her libidinal style.

My no-nonsense consultant, whose first contribution to this column was her ebullient assessment of “The Little Mermaid” (1989), now takes a harder tack when she rhetorically queries, “Doesn’t Carrie grieve for a bit too long? In real life, there would have been a crazy blowout or three. Communication is key.”

And, bemoaning the paper doll characterizations, she concludes her early Father’s Day gift by noting, “Only Kristin Davis, who didn’t have a particularly strong part in the TV version, does a great job here. Her character actually has opinions.”

“Sex and the City,” rated R, is a New Line Cinema release directed by Michael Patrick King and stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis. Running time: 148 minutes

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