As in all chick flicks, the primary character is a woman, and the man is secondary, absent, distracted, useless, pitiable, emasculated, loathsome, or some loose combination of the above. Greg Kinnear, who plays the husband, is about as manly as a pearl necklace. Sure, he’s faithful, loyal, almost always happy, and occasionally cuddly, kind of like the family dog. He’ll even bark occasionally, but when he does, he’s usually reprimanded for it.
The story is all about how the main character (played with brisk efficiency by Sarah Jessica Parker) tries to juggle career and family responsibilities, which makes her feel that she does neither very well, but there are so many women like her that identification with her will be all but automatic. Of course, Sarah Jessica Parker is also skinny, rich, famous, and a walking fashion show, which might work to alienate her potential audience – but wait, she was all those things in her years on “Sex and The City” as well, and since those targeted ads were usually for perfume and hair spray, one has to assume that her loyal followers didn’t resent her success, but rather, idolized it. She even reprises her narration overdubs.
The sidekick character is the “career” woman who doesn’t have time for the messiness of children, and doesn’t have much use for men either. Rather pointedly, she’s Parker’s assistant, not the other way around. But when she suddenly announces her pregnancy, there’s still no need for a man around, even to help raise the child. And seeing that on the big screen makes it OK for everyone, right? Or was it the other way around?
The “evil” character is the rich, married “kept” woman who whines from her daily rounds at the upscale gym that the other mothers don’t do their part in making homemade cookies for the school bake sale. This is supposed to represent the superficiality and snootiness that “real” working women supposedly loathe, though they may actually envy the leisurely lifestyle.
“Family value” folks are supposed to like this movie because it reaffirms the importance of marriage (though a matriarchal version of it, because she makes all the decisions, and, after all, it’s all about her). The only “racy” element is characterized by the flirtatious, leering interest of a suave, sophisticated, successful client (Pierce Brosnan), who, rather than be condemned as a pervert or sued as a harasser, is instead adroitly referred to someone more eligible. No harm, no foul?
The truth is, when you see the trailers, you’ve seen the movie. It delivers its title.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.