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Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City: The Movie."

IF CARRIE BRADSHAW and company have taught us anything over the years, it's that we should steadfastly cling to our best friends — flaws and all.

"Sex and the City" is a movie with some glaring flaws. It's way too long, for one, and, annoyingly, not much really happens. But diehard devotees of the saucy TV series will so relish being back in the warm company of the "girls" that they'll hardly notice.

Picking up four years after the show ended, the film finds our formerly frisky quartet settling into middle age. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is living in L.A. with her hunky actor pal, Smith (Jason Lewis); Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is raising her adopted toddler with hubby Harry (Evan Handler); Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is sharing a less-than-perfect marriage with mousy Steve (David Eigenberg); and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is preparing for a fairy-princess wedding to the debonair Mr. Big (Chris Noth).

Before moving on, we should point out that the women, in utter defiance of age and gravity, still look deliciously gorgeous. Decked out in their designer duds, they practically shimmer on the screen. And isn't it encouraging to see that a big summer flick can be tethered to something other than a sweaty male action hero?

As much as fans have been clamoring for this frothy offering, it does represent a bit of a risk for writer-director Michael Patrick King. After all, when the show ended in 2004, it appeased fans by leaving the characters in relatively happy places. Now, by advancing the story, he potentially messes with a good thing.


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And without divulging too many details, the gal pals do experience their share of turbulence. Carrie, for starters, sees her happily-ever-after placed in jeopardy when Big suffers a case of wedding-day jitters. It's a plot device we've seen all too often in sweeps-time TV episodes, but King and Parker find a way to give it more emotional oomph and tenderness than we could have expected.

Meanwhile, Miranda experiences a betrayal that rocks her world, and Samantha comes to the sad realization that she might not be ready for monogamy just yet. As for the ever-chipper Charlotte, well, her life is so ridiculously blissful that she's left to worry about when the bubble will burst.

The crew gets some new blood in likable Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. As Carrie's love-starved personal assistant, Louise, her acting load is woefully light, but she adds some much-needed diversity to the mix and serves as a reminder of the early days of "Sex" when Carrie and company were trolling for men.

Now, the story is less about getting a little something-something and more about established adult relationships. It's also about romantic missteps, regrets, the modern-day obstacles to personal fulfillment and the willingness to forgive.

Parker always excelled in small doses during the show's six-year run, but the film forces her to dig deeper than ever and play an impressive range of emotions. The result is a thoroughly enchanting performance. Nixon also shines, displaying new shades of fragility. Meanwhile, Cattrall and Davis add some comic spice. It's a pleasure to watch this cohesive foursome at work.

"Sex and the City" is roiling with the kind of witty banter, sartorial splendor and playful naughtiness that made the show such a hoot. On the other hand, it displays some ugly stretch marks, especially over the latter part of the film, which meanders badly and loses focus.

Again, the extra padding will hardly deter the diehards. On the other hand, it probably won't help in the enlistment of new recruits, including all those bitterly turned-off guys who'd rather drink bleach than share a cosmo with Carrie.

Reach Chuck Barney at 925-952-2685 or cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Also, check out his daily blog at www.ibabuzz.com/tvfreak.

'SEX AND THE CITY'
B
  • STARRING: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon
  • DIRECTOR: Michael Patrick King
  • WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and midnight screenings at select theaters; Bay Area wide on Friday
  • RATING: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
  • RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 22 minutes