MOVIE REVIEW- Why the fuss?:Is there life after maturity?

a still from this week's filmWhether they're straight women or gay men, whether they saw the series on HBO, DVD or, somewhat sanitized, on TBS, there are enough Sex and the City fans to make a big-screen sequel economically feasible.Steve WarrenThe series caught time in a bottle. Can they reopen the bottle and put a little more time in it?

Were there unresolved story issues? The series ended, after 94 episodes, with each of the four heroines finding fulfillment in her personal and professional life and– perhaps for the first time– acting her age.

As with any franchise, the solution is to treat that perfect ending like a snow globe: shake it up a little and see where things fall.

Three years have passed. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is still with "Mr. Big" (Chris Noth), and he's buying a fabulous penthouse for them to share. When Carrie hesitates about giving up her old apartment– this is New York– Big makes history's least romantic proposal, and they're off to the altar.

Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) is living in California with actor Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis), the boytoy who saw her through cancer, but she still doesn't "believe in marriage" and flies back to Manhattan to be with her friends as frequently as if it were a subway stop away.

Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) is still happily married to Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler), and they've adopted a Chinese girl, Lily, to make their home complete.

Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) is married and living in Brooklyn with Steve Brady (David Eigenberg), son Brady, and nanny Magda (Lynn Cohen).

The first break in the bliss comes when Miranda and Steve are making love, a rare occurrence these days, and she tells him, "Let's just get it over with." It's not much of a surprise, except to Miranda, when he later confesses to having had sex with someone else.

Carrie lets wedding plans spin out of control until Big gets cold feet on the way to the library, where the ceremony is taking place. This makes for one of the more suspenseful wedding scenes in recent memory.

Samantha, feeling neglected because Smith is always at the studio, is attracted by a new boy next door, Dante (Gilles Marini), who has a different sex partner every night and never closes the curtains. With neighbors like him, who needs HBO?

Amid the highs and lows of their separate lives, the four women manage to spend more time together than men on a chain gang where the key has been lost. Except for Charlotte, whose joy just keeps increasing, each has at some point to reevaluate her situation and reconsider the importance of the man in her life.

As in the series, the men are largely reduced to accessories. Big and Steve have more to do than Smith and Harry, but they're clearly not the stars.

Accessorizing is the name of the game, with Candice Bergen dropped in for one brief scene, and series regulars Mario Cantone and Willie Garson squeezed in as the token gays.

The most valuable supporting player is Jennifer Hudson as "Louise from St. Louis," the personal assistant Carrie hires. She represents the new generation of twentysomethings moving to New York in search of love, and is being counted on to bring in both young and African American audiences. Like everything else about the movie, she can be seen by cynics as a crass commercial calculation rather than something organic to the story.

There may be less sexually explicit dialogue than on the series, but there are several brief softcore sex scenes, mostly involving Dante– although each of the women but Carrie gets a turn.

The series is efficiently recapped at the beginning for newbies in the audience, who may wonder what the fuss was about when it's all over. Fans who can't get enough should love the movie while those of us with some objectivity will conclude it wasn't necessary, but it isn't bad.