[11 June 2008]
Chicago Tribune (MCT)
NEW YORK - There will be a sequel to the wildly successful “Sex and the City” movie. After the film’s $57 million opening weekend, that’s one of the surest bets in the entertainment industry.
But - to muse a la Carrie Bradshaw - I have to wonder, can “Sex” be as good the second time around?
Not that this would stop the studio from rushing into a sequel, but if you’ve seen the film, you know there’s really nowhere for the stories of the “SATC” characters to go.
That’s the problem with the entertainment franchises, which are rampant. Steps from my Times Square hotel, there’s ample evidence of this: “Legally Blonde” was a movie that became a Broadway show (and it will soon get a reality show). John Waters’ “Hairspray” was a movie that became a musical that turned into a remake of his film.
Right now, TV is the most fertile ground for this kind of cross-pollination. The success of the “SATC” movie probably prompted entertainment executives to rustle through their archives and start developing female-friendly TV projects into films. Maybe now there’s a small chance we’ll get that “Gilmore Girls” feature. But it’s more likely that the enticements offered to “Sopranos” creator David Chase to come up with a film will multiply.
Genre pieces are actually the workhorses of the multiplatform craze. Shows such as “Heroes” and “Battlestar Galactica” spawn video games, books, Webisodes, graphic novels and TV movies, among other things. Another “X-Files” feature will come out six years after the show went off the air. There’s yet another “Star Trek” big-screen iteration on the way next year (courtesy of one of the “Lost” co-creators).
And as much as their creators see the wisdom in giving TV shows defined end dates, a la “Lost,” the insatiable demands of the big entertainment conglomerates will not be denied. Is it wrong to wonder if “Lost” itself will become a musical some day? (I can just imagine the big closing number - “We Never Did Find That Island Again.”) In all seriousness, that show’s spinoffs will probably never end, and I can’t imagine that the creation of a “Lost” feature film hasn’t occurred to Disney-ABC executives.
But the problem with spinning out entertainment franchises is that they tend to get burdened with more and more baggage even as the stories that power the franchises start to peter out. As generally pleasing as the “Sex and the City” movie was (and I was lucky enough to see it with a packed, wildly appreciative audience in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, the epicenter of “SATC” adoration), it may emerge as a cautionary example of the law of diminishing returns.
Hit TV shows create big egos, which is the only explanation I can think of for Kim Cattrall’s oversize part in the “SATC” film. She’d always been rumored to be the holdout regarding a big-screen “SATC” project, and judging by the inexplicably large amount of screen time she got, I surmise that the film’s producers mollified the actress by giving her character, Samantha, and her lover, Smith, far more screen time than this pallid, predictable duo deserved.
But that’s the problem with pulling together a movie project once a cast and creative team have disbanded. To get a film off the ground, factors that have nothing to do with storytelling and everything to do with money, ego and politics often become part of the equation. That may be the reason “SATC” fan favorites such as Stanford Blatch, Charlotte and Harry Goldenblatt, and wedding planner Anthony Marentino received too little screen time and Samantha’s vamping got too much.
And thanks to bigger film budgets and the increased studio oversight they can bring, the quirkier and funkier aspects of a TV show can get lost. There were two-parters in the first few seasons of “The X-Files” that were far better than the franchise’s first big-screen project.
What you don’t want is a project in which important characters and relationships don’t get enough screen time. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are major parts of the engine that drives the “SATC” franchise, and their scenes together were very good, but there weren’t enough of them.
Though I understood and even appreciated the film team’s desire to pay tribute to dozens of “SATC” staples, such as cosmopolitans, Carrie’s closets, Fashion Week and so forth, it felt as if the movie was trying to cover way too many bases. The overly long feature wasn’t nearly as streamlined and focused as a few well-paced, strongly linked episodes of the show.
In that sense, though the “SATC” movie was far superior to the disappointing second season of “Heroes,” both tried to do too much and fell short in key areas.
The biggest problem - and the most ominous one for the future of the Carrie Bradshaw franchise - is that the “SATC” film trotted out plots that we’d already seen on the show several times. Nostalgia drove much of that massive weekend box office, and the fact that we hadn’t seen Carrie and her three pals in four years meant the film got a pass for recycling stories from the past.
But by providing closure (yet again) regarding most of the women’s romantic relationships, the “SATC” creative team painted itself into a corner. I don’t care how many fabulous ensembles Ms. Bradshaw wears next time - if the next “SATC” film mines Carrie or Miranda’s man problems again, or spends too much time on Samantha, my patience will wear as thin as a designer knockoff.
Michael Patrick King, who wrote and directed the film, and Parker, one of its producers, were the creative forces behind the TV show for most of its run, and it’s up to them to find a new, original story about these characters that’s worth telling. It can be done. And it must be done, or else the next “SATC” movie will come off as just another money-grubbing attempt to troll for product placement and sell DVDs.
If we’ve learned one thing about Carrie, it’s that she values love above money. Though the truth is, she has always aimed to have a healthy supply of both.