Rating:

* *

Verdict:

An insult to the original.

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The premise may sound familiar - four gal pals dealing with man dramas in New York City - but

The Women

is to

Sex and the City

, what Paris Hilton is to Madonna. The two bear no relation, despite the efforts of the promo department.

The film is in fact a remake of a classic 30s comedy, starring Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer - a critical and box office hit, known for its sharp dialogue and scathing social commentary on New York's pampered housewives.

This version - directed by

Murphy Brown

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creator Diane English - is as cutting as a pair of plastic safety snips.

Even the star-studded cast can't save the floundering storyline as it limps from one blatant product placement to the next. And while English may have kept the original concept of an all-female cast (not a single man appears - in the foreground or background - throughout the two hours), it only serves to make the women seem more pathetic - beholden to mysterious men you never see - than empowered.

Ryan, Bening, Pinkett Smith and Messing play an unlikely foursome of friends, whose origins are never explained, who have nothing in common and no chemistry to speak of.

Bening's character Sylvia - a ball-busting magazine editor, succeeding in a man's world - is completely undermined by attempts to make her likeable. Instead of embracing the hard-nosed role and injecting some much needed bitch into the film, Sylvia is constantly trying to redeem herself and apologising for her meanness.

Pinkett Smith (who represents two minorities as the token black lesbian character) and Messing seem to have had most of their scenes cut (a blessing for both) and end up with as much screen time as the strange and unnecessary cameos by Midler and Carrie Fisher.

But the two leads - Ryan and Mendes - are the real reason this film doesn't work. As Mary, the sweet but hopeless housewife, Ryan barely bats an eyelid when she discovers her husband is cheating with the sultry shopgirl Crystal (Mendes, who plays her character less wily and street-smart and more cheap and nasty.)

As such, the ensuing "drama" and rallying of mates is pointless. She doesn't care, so why should we?

Joanna Hunkin





Cast:

Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler

Director:

Diane English

Running time:

114 minutes