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‘Sex and the City’: Exactly what you’re expecting

While it feels more like half of a TV season than a movie, the big-screen adventures of Carrie and company give fans what they’re longing for

The “Sex and the City” movie represents a kind of paradigm shift: It seems to be the first major motion picture produced with the TV series box-set purchaser in mind. If you curl up with your DVD player and watch seven or eight episodes of “Lost” or “The Sopranos” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in one go, then spending 135 minutes (or, if you prefer, five episodes) in the theater with Carrie and the gang won’t seem unusual at all.

Writer-director Michael Patrick King, one of the driving forces behind the original series, has cannily avoided trying to open up the material too much in taking it to the big screen. Samantha doesn’t go into outer space, Miranda doesn’t start talking to dead people, and Charlotte doesn’t break into a musical number. It’s simply an extension of the groundwork that the show already laid down, and for “Sex” fans who have waited four years for another fix, that’s all it has to be.

If you’re not into the show, of course, the movie’s probably not going to win you over. But if you spent Sunday nights glued to the hit series on HBO — or caught up with it later in its DVD or scrubbed-up TBS incarnations — then watching the movie will be as comfortable and as decadent as sitting on the sofa with a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough.

“Sex and the City” picks up pretty much where the TV show ended: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has finally won the heart of Mr. Big (Chris Noth), whose real name turns out to be John James Preston; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is ensconced in Brooklyn with husband Steve (David Eigenberg), son Brady and nanny Magda (Lynn Cohen); Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is blissfully happy with her husband Harry (Evan Handler) and their adopted Chinese daughter Lily; and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has moved to Los Angeles to manage the exploding acting career of her hunky lover Smith (Jason Lewis).

And then… stuff happens. A New Line representative stepped out before the screening to ask critics not to give away any of the plot twists. And since the plot is about the only new thing that the movie brings to the table, I’ll respect their wishes.

The other notable new addition to the proceedings is Jennifer Hudson as Louise, a recent transplant from St. Louis, who has come to New York looking for love. Her quiet wisdom and love of designer purses make her the ideal new assistant for Carrie.

While Hudson is just fine in her first screen appearance since winning an Oscar for her “Dreamgirls” debut, the rest of the cast has the advantage of slipping back into characters they played for years on cable, and that comfort comes through in the performances. The leading quartet pings and zings as well as ever, and even second bananas like Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone) get their moment as well. (Candice Bergen returns briefly as Carrie’s editor at Vogue, delivering a brutally funny line that will be quoted in bridal shops for years to come.)

So basically, if you’d been looking forward to a “Sex and the City” movie but were carrying the slightest doubt that the feature film would deviate from the show’s formula even a little, have no fear. And have another cosmo.