THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A genre that's out of fashion

1998 1998 (Norman Jean Roy/Hbo via Ap)
By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / May 27, 2010

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W hen the first “Sex and the City’’ movie finally found its way to theaters, it was an unexpected bonus, like finding a Tiffany tie clip for $1 in a dusty secondhand shop, or an Alexander McQueen blouse at TJ Maxx. Kim Cattrall had finally signed on, and there was good reason for excitement. Fans were left hanging when the HBO series ended in 2004, and when the movie debuted in 2008, pop culture was still busy cashing in on the fashion-meets-chick-lit phenomenon that “Sex’’ spawned.

In theaters, there was “The Devil Wears Prada,’’ with “Confessions of a Shopaholic’’ following closely on its Christian Louboutin heels. On television, the female-friendly, fashion-forward ethos of “Sex’’ lived on with “Cashmere Mafia’’ and “Lipstick Jungle.’’ There was also more than a hint of Carrie Bradshaw’s world to be found in “Ugly Betty.’’

But “Betty,’’ the last of those “Sex and the City’’ descendants, got its walking papers this winter. After more than a decade of Patricia Field-designed costumes for films and TV series, the genre has been wrung out, like the last of Samantha Jones’s delicates on wash day. Which makes the arrival of “Sex and the City 2’’ perhaps the most anticlimactic sequel of the summer, and the reason I won’t be queued up tonight to see it alongside the ladies who smell of cranberry juice, vodka, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely Moments perfume. Didn’t everyone’s dreams already come true in the first film?

Indeed they did. But the first “Sex and the City’’ was a $415 million cash cow, which made another chapter inevitable. The problem with a sequel in 2010 is that “Sex and the City’’ is a moment whose time has passed. The economic crisis effectively stamped out the last of these effervescent fables. There’s also the matter that 12 years have passed since these characters first entered our lives. Should a woman in her mid-40s be seen in public in a tutu?

The “Sex and the City’’ television show was a groundbreaking look at 30-somethings finding love in New York, but “SATC 2’’ threatens to border on the shtick of “Menopause: The Musical,’’ complete with Liza Minnelli (!) covering “Single Ladies.’’ Even worse is that the spirit of the show seems to have gotten lost somewhere in the desert-filmed scenes we’ve all seen countless times in the trailer. Advertising tie-ins and cross promotion with Mercedes-Benz, Lipton Diet Green Tea, HP, and Macy’s flaunt Carrie’s lifestyle for the right price. Even more shameless is Parker wearing five dresses in the film from Halston, the company where she was recently installed as creative director of the label’s heritage line.

There was a time when creativity, sass, and a longing for love was the recipe for the success of this franchise. I fear it’s been traded for green tea deals and a cameo by Miley Cyrus. In the May 21 issue of Entertainment Weekly, “Sex and the City’’ writer-director Michael Patrick King wrote a tongue-in-cheek “SATC’’ sequel set in 2040. It may have been a joke, but at this point, that humor is starting to feel dangerously realistic. “Golden Girls in the City,’’ anyone?

Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com.

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