'Sex and the City'

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The veil comes off the highly anticipated "Sex and the City" movie at month's end, and though the HBO series' ardent fans are certain to come out in droves, the end product is a case of bigger not necessarily being better.

When making a successful transition from TV show to film, the trick always is to retain the essence of what made the series so watchable while at the same time addressing the demands of that larger canvas without feeling like a supersized episode.

But while staying faithful to the former — Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and the girls remain energetically true to form — the nearly 21/2-hour feature tends to resemble the latter.

Not that the bloated result will deter the show's loyal audience, which should make it a potent girls night out destination, but it is unlikely to build on that fan base.

Picking up four years later from where the Emmy-winning series left off, the movie efficiently brings everybody up to speed.

Carrie, no longer writing that column, is working on her fourth book and is still in a relationship with Mr. Big (Chris Noth).

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is living her fairy tale life on Park Avenue with her hubby, Harry (Evan Handler), and a little girl they adopted from China.

The stressed Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is living in Brooklyn, struggling to balance a job with marriage to Steve (David Eigenberg) and motherhood.

Over on the other coast, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) appears to have settled down with her actor-client Smith (Jason Lewis) in their Malibu beach house.

But when Big pops the big question, a whole mess of change is set into gear.

With that jumping-off point, the movie certainly was capable of standing on its own two Blahniks.

Unfortunately, where episodes of the series used to take their cue from a question posed by one of Carrie's columns, writer-director Michael Patrick King never finds that focus, and "Sex and the City" loses its tart edge in the process.

There's still much to enjoy, especially from the nicely honed performances of its four leads. And a trio of costume designers ensure that there's no stinting on all the label action. (partialdiff)
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