Craig Blankenhorn, New Line Cinema
Kristin Davis, left, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall star in the overstuffed, sexually explicit film "Sex and the City."
SEX AND THE CITY — ** — Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon; rated R (vulgarity, sex, profanity, nudity, brief drugs, slurs)

It may have been four years since the HBO television series "Sex and the City" halted production of original episodes, but the characters and material are still not ready for their big-screen close-up.

That's even more apparent watching some of that show's creative folks stretch the normally half-hour concept to nearly 2 1/2 hours, by filling the resulting movie with in-jokes, program references and even an opening-credit sequence that features a supposed "highlight reel."

Worse, it's also padded out with music montages, a fashion show sequence and all-girl sleepovers, and it boasts even more in the way of raunchy material. There are some pretty explicit sex scenes, as well as some dumb potty humor.

As a result, the film version might appeal to longtime fans of the show but definitely won't appeal to anyone who's outside the target demographic.

Sarah Jessica Parker reprises her role as formerly lovelorn columnist and writer Carrie Bradshaw, who is ready to take the next big step in her relationship with longtime boyfriend John James Preston, aka "Mr. Big" (Chris Noth). They've moved in together and are now preparing to get married.

Meanwhile, Bradshaw's promiscuous pal Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is still managing her actor boyfriend Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis ) and is living in Hollywood, though she is tempted by her hunky new neighbor (Gilles Marini).

Busy mother and attorney Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is experiencing marital strife with her husband, Steve (David Eigenberg). And that's given both Carrie and Big some serious cold feet.

In fact, the only one of the bunch whose life seems to be going perfectly is the normally neurotic Charlotte (Kristin Davis).

That's plenty of material as it is, but screenwriter/director Michael Patrick King feels compelled to introduce a new character, a personal assistant for Carrie (played by Jennifer Hudson).

But that's just more weight added to a film that's already overstuffed as it is. And the Carrie-Big melodrama just isn't that compelling.

However, the subplot involving Nixon's Miranda deserves further exploration. Davis is consigned to the most demeaning bit, which involves some dreadful toilet humor.

"Sex and the City" is rated R for vulgar humor and references (both sexual and scatological in nature), simulated sex and other sexual contact, strong sexual language (profanity, innuendo and other crudities), female and full male nudity, brief drug references, a couple of derogatory slurs, and some brief domestic violence (food fights). Running time: 145 minutes.

E-mail: [email protected]