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  The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Starring: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, America Ferrera
Directed by: Sanaa Hamri
Produced by: Denise Di Novi, Debra Martin Chase, Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson

Written by: Elizabeth Chandler
Distributor: Warner Bros.


      For all of its flaws, the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants adventure was a promising one. Yes, the movie overstayed its welcome with a two-hour running-length and it wasn’t very original, relying far too much on emotional-manipulation typical of gushy ‘tween-targeted romantic-comedies. Nonetheless, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants offered four involving performances from an impressive cast of young women: a sweet and sympathetic Alexis Bledel, a confident America Ferrera, an attractive Blake Lively, and a deviously funny Amber Tamblyn. Even if I wasn’t able to wholeheartedly recommend the film back in my 2005 review, I admittedly found myself awaiting the announced sequel because of the strong potential initially demonstrated by the actresses involved.

     Unfortunately, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 amplifies all of the shortcomings of its predecessor rather than correcting them. This time around, the stories inhabited by its four main characters—Lena (Bledel), Carmen (Ferrera), Bridget (Lively), and Tibby (Tamblyn)—are even more uninteresting, conventional, and self-proclaimedly empowering than those in the first film. Both pictures were based off of Sisterhood series source-novels, a fact which leads me to wonder why they were made in the first place. The mediocre movies largely excel based on their performances; given how dry source-author Ann Brashares’ narrative feels on celluloid, it seems unfathomable it would be at all bearable (let alone likable) on paper. I decided to give Brashares the benefit of the doubt as I watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, pontificating that perhaps the movie was adapted from a short novel that lost its magic being stretched to feature-length. That thought proved entirely invalid; I’ve discovered that the book is actually 417 pages in paperback, leaving much more time for clichéd storytelling than the movie’s (far too lengthy) 117-minutes do. Needless to say, I won’t be diving into any Brashares literature anytime soon.

     It’s difficult to even try to make the case that it’s nice to see familiar Sisterhood faces despite the second installment’s lacking qualities. Yes, I enjoy these actresses’ characterizations, but as I watched I felt bad that they were left to waste away in such a poorly-written, haphazardly-constructed project more often than I felt happy to be in their company. Whereas the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants lost some substance as its characters worked to find their places in the greater story-arc, the second film pins them in stock situations and provides them with often out-of-personality responses to said situations. Even if the actresses manage to win you over, you’ll be left somewhat unsettled by the inauthentic things their characters do.

     In this sequel, the sisterhood has finished its first year of college, only to see its members part once again for all of the projects that they’re tackling over summer vacation. These don’t resemble anything that normal nineteen-year-old girls might actually do and, because they never take on appropriately surreal tones, they suffer in their removed nature. Lena isn’t vacationing in Greece once again, likely because her relationship with Kostos (Michael Rady) has ended and he has married another girl. Instead, she heads off to figure-drawing school, where she meets Leo (Jesse Williams), a nude-model/artist who she forms a relationship with. Things soon fall apart and Lena’s mind wanders back to Kostos, however, because Leo “can’t be with just one person.” The movie stops short of implying that Leo is a swinger, but it almost gets there. Believe it.

     Meanwhile, Carmen is up to matters far more typical of this type of movie. She has been lured out to rural theatre-camp by drama-queen Yale classmate Julia (Rachel Nichols), mainly with the intent of escaping the pressures of her family moving and her mother having a baby. Carmen first only intends to be working backstage on technical equipment, but she is soon captivated by Ian (Tom Wisdom), a hunky, long-haired, British leading-man who Julia desperately wishes to share the stage with. Ian convinces Carmen to audition for the lead-role in the camp’s annual play and her natural talent lands it, much to the chagrin of Rachel, who sets revenge in her sights as she rehearses for a much smaller one-line part. Catty drama ensues.

     The two story-threads that feel the freshest in the movie also seem the most artificial, perhaps because their clichés are less familiar (and therefore harder to forgive) than those of the others. They belong to Tibby and Bridget. The former spends most of the movie worrying about being pregnant; her longtime boyfriend’s condom breaks when they finally get down to having sex. On top of the writing’s syrupy melodrama that totally undermines Tamblyn’s blessed comic timing, there’s a central idea ignored by the screenwriters: Has Tibby never heard of the morning-after pill? Sure, perhaps she’s morally opposed to using such a product—this is doubtful, however, given that she’s a progressive NYU film student—but you’d think it would arise in natural conversation as she mopes over her potential pregnancy. Situations like these make The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 feel near-paralyzed in its search (or lack thereof) for emotional honesty.

     Bridget’s scenes give way to the additional argument that the movie lowers its standards to appeal exclusively to the schmaltz-loving female demographic. Lively has a beautiful, charming, electrifying screen-presence—helmer Sanaa Hamri has even directed it before in episodes of TV’s “Gossip Girl”—but she is exploited here. Bridget is dumbed down to airhead-status from the moment she leaves early on in the film for “archaeology camp” in Turkey in a subconscious quest to find herself on an emotional level. When she returns to the United States and heads to find her long-lost, carburetor-fixin’, Southern grandma Greta (an especially ridiculous Blythe Danner) to foster some closure in relation to her mother’s suicide, things only get worse. Talk about trivializing one of the film’s most potentially-complex characters.

     The movie of course ends in a grandiose, giggly expedition relating to the central pair of “traveling pants” (they are lost at the end of the second act) that perfectly mirrors its vapid whole. As much as it pains me to say this given how much I value its four main talents—only one of which has received proper exposure in recent years, if only because of a certain young professional named Betty—The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 represents something of a disaster. Have I given up on these characters? Not at all. Have I given up on the stories they are subjected to embody? Maybe. I certainly won’t be as enthusiastic for a potential third installment in the series as I was for this one; that much I know for sure.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 8.4.2008

Screened on: 7.30.2008 at the Edwards Mira Mesa 18 in Mira Mesa, CA.


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is rated PG-13 and runs 117 minutes.

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