August 14, 2008


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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (PG-13)
Four friends embark on life adventures and occasionally all wear the same pair of pants (you know, one at a time — the pants aren’t that big) in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, a lifeless sequel to the first Sisterhood movie that seems to put a “the end” on the series.

According to Wikipedia, Pants 2 is based mostly on the fourth (and last) novel in the series. The movie feels like a very strong “the end,” as though both Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) and America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) want to make absolutely certain they’ll never have to put on those damn jeans again.

We catch up on something like three years in the lives of Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Carmen (America Ferrera) and Bridget (Blake Lively). The girls have graduated high school and are now all in college. After their freshman year, they all stand on the brink of a summer separated from each other once again and once again relying on the pants to keep them together. The sassy, emo-ish Tibby is in New York City working at a video store and trying to write a romantic comedy screenplay for a class. Lena is in Rhode Island at her art school taking a summer class in drawing. Carmen goes to Vermont to work as a stagehand on a play. Bridget heads to Turkey to go on an architectural dig.

Naturally, all these big plans have wrinkles. Tibby is happily enjoying a relationship with her boyfriend Brian (Leonardo Nam) but is shaken when their first sexual encounter ends with the news that they weren’t as protected as they thought they were. Lena, having recently broken up with her Greek boyfriend Kostos (Michael Rady), starts a rather bloodless relationship with Leo (Jesse Williams), the model in her drawing class. Carmen feels alienated from her friends, both her old pants friends and her new friend Julia (Rachel Nichols), whom she accidentally aces out of a lead in the summerstock production of Shakespeare on which she’s working. Carmen and Julia also both fancy the same boy, actor Ian (Tom Wisdom). Bridget learns just before she leaves for Turkey that her grandmother Greta (Blythe Danner), the mother of Bridget’s late mother, has been writing her for years and this new part of her family history pulls on her even from half a world away.

Angst here. Letters there. Pants everywhere.

Somewhere in this movie is a fairly good story about female friendships and the changes they undergo as friends transform from teenage girls to adult women. There is also a fairly good story in here somewhere about young love, and the awkwardness and emotional turmoil of a first serious sexual relationship. In this age of 15-year-olds who act in movies and TV like Sex and the City characters (behavior perhaps best portrayed by Lively’s Gossip Girl), that story is a refreshingly rare one and worth examination. The problem is that those two stories, along with a bunch of not-so-well-executed coming-of-age stories, are crammed in one crowded movie. Each of the four girls basically dances through her own movie, each one with its own setting and cast of characters and plotlines. I’m not sure that any one girl’s story is strong enough to stand on its own but I do know that all of them together are too much for the two hours of screen time they get here. Who’s lusting after a boy and who’s worried about their mom? Which one is dealing with familial drama and which one is self-sabotaging? The problems run together, but not in the smooth “life’s rich tapestry” way, more in a “if you mix all the paint colors, you get brown” way.

Pants 2 feels almost like a clip show of some monstrously slow-moving soap opera, which is filled with whiney repetitive scenes but so much going on that even if you were inclined to enjoy the pathos, you’d be jerked from a sad break-up to a wacky scene involving ancient artifacts. But I suppose, in some way, this is a clip show — a clip show and a wrap-up for the movies you’re not going to see. This seems like a movie strictly for fans of the first Pants and fans of the books who want to see the characters act out the end of their stories. For those without a burning desire to see the continuation of the story of a pair of jeans, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 seems more like a movie made to fulfill a contractual obligation, not an artistic need. C-

Rated PG-13 for mature material and sensuality. Directed by Sanaa Hamri and written by Elizabeth Chandler (from a novel by Ann Brashares), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is an hour and 57 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros. in wide release.