And having watched the long-delayed yet crushingly inevitable big-screen outing, I still couldn’t. Written and directed by series originator Michael Patrick King from Candace Bushnell’s original chick-lit novel, the saga continues with a bumptious opening crawl of flashbacks to high-points of the tv series, by way of reminding us who these characters are. We see the grand nabob Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) try on shoes, man-eater Samantha (Kim Catrall) enjoy a fulsome orgasm, boffin Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) scratch her red head with a pencil and nice-but-dim Charlotte (Kristen Davis) simper sweetly.
The players established, and that’s about as three-dimensional as it gets, the story picks up four years after their small-screen farewell with Carrie still madly in love with Mr Big (Chris Noth) and preparing to move into a cavernous Manhattan penthouse just as soon as she can have the wardrobe space expanded. After a coy proposal over chopped tomatoes, the two are planning to marry. Big, for his part, has already been hitched twice, so is somewhat nervous about the proposition, fearing it will bring about change and of course all men, even billionaire property developers, are terrified of that. Such concerns are made real with word that the fire has gone out between Miranda and husband Steve (David Eigenberg), leading him to adultery and her to develop a scowl that doesn’t leave her face for the remainder of the film. Charlotte, the ever present cheerleader, is blissfully married to Harry (Evan Handler) and parading their adopted five-year old Chinese girl like a Hermes bag. Samantha, the most obviously pantomime character and as a result the most fun, flits in and out of the story from LA, where she is now a high-flying agent for toyboy Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis), busy guiding him to stardom by being snippy on the phone, sipping champagne and balancing her sunglasses on her head.
For all the early character-establishing shenanigans, after the first hour the film remains virtually plotless. It nips along at a lively pace, but remove the central narrative – Carrie and Mr Big’s stumbling walk down the aisle – and there is little else to engage. Gathering these characters together again apparently took considerable negotiation, not to mention large wads of cash, but the results are nowhere near worth the delays and reported bickering. Although these women can deliver reams of quick-fire, back and forth dialogue, when the script asks them to actually act, in scenes designed to expose the loneliness of the middle-aged, the weary trudge of life after romance or the complications of marriage, they crumble. Although all four are still game, there is nothing to stretch them here, with both situations and dialogue lifted straight from the cheesiest soap opera, dramatically coarse and shabbily arranged.
Part of the blame here lies with the director, whose idea of a motion picture is four episodes of television without any advertisements. Running just shy of 150 minutes, Sex & The City is lavishly lengthy but almost entirely empty, composed of endless product placement, easy montage (moving house, trying on wedding dresses), tittering sex-chatter and slapped-face surprise. Emotionally underwhelming and lacking any real imagination or wit, there seems to be little point to the film beyond window-shopping; oohing and aahing over lovely frocks and just-so accessories, a banal catwalk of splashy colour and orthopedically-taxing jewellery. Brands, botox and bullshit, basically. It will be a smash hit.