America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, Blythe Danner
About 30 minutes into "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," I found myself doing the nervous fidget.
The nervous fidget is what I do when I start to get that eerie feeling that the film I'm watching is going to be a major disappointment. Believe it or not, I was looking forward to this second time around with Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Bridget (Blake Lively), Lena (Alexis Bledel) and Carmen (America Ferrera). While "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" wasn't groundbreaking cinema, it was entertaining enough and featured strong performances especially by Tamblyn and Ferrara.
The same is true with "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," a solidly entertaining film that is unlikely to please anyone who didn't like the first film but will likely to please the book series' legion of fans and, as well, fans of the original film.
Despite starting off with a corny animation involving the pants and an excessively schmaltzy re-introduction of the main characters, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" quickly settles back into a more naturalistic comfort zone.
This time around, the girls have grown into young college women. In many ways, they have grown apart with the pants serving more a symbol of their unity than an actual tie that binds.
Their summer activities are representative of the fact that their lives are going in different directions- Carmen is coming into her own at a Vermont theatre festival, Bridget is off dealing with the emotional remnants of her mother's suicide while participating in an archaeological dig in Turkey, Lena is dealing with life and love during a Rhode Island College of Design workshop and Tibby is trying to cope with a pregnancy scare and a guy she might just not be able to scare off.
As was true in the first film, both Tamblyn and Ferrara are the standouts here. Ferrera delights as a young woman who goes from a behind the scenes worker bee into a blossoming young woman whose natural acting talent is discovered. Tamblyn, on the other hand, gives the film its emotional center as the beautiful yet guarded Tibby.
This time around, Blake Lively is given more to do than simply be the hot sexpot dealing with her burgeoning sexuality, and Lively makes the most of it. While Lively's scenes under the tutelage of Professor Mehani (Shohreh Aghdashloo) don't quite ring true, Lively's Bridget is heartbreaking once she leaves the fields of Turkey for the equally challenging fields of her family home front. Dealing with her father (real-life father Ernie Lively) and grandmother (Blythe Danner), Lively wisely drops the bravado and turns in a surprisingly touching performance.
Alexis Bledel is again hindered by the most lightly developed character of the four, and again seems to be primarily stuck in the "Do I pick him or not?" storyline. While Bledel's performance isn't really weak, it is the least interesting of the four.
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" again capitalizes on beautiful locales, including multiple scenes in Greece and scenes throughout the East Coast. Director Sanaa Hamri ("Something New") keeps the film a tad busier than the original, and this second time around seems to be busier and more intent on weaving its way in and out of the storylines.
Of course, the book series has always been popular among teen girls and I dare say it goes without saying that the film couldn't possibly resolve with the girls truly falling apart.
In the end, however, the girls learn that THEY are the ties that bind their circle together and it is up to each of them to create the magic that they have so often credited to the pants.
If you didn't care for "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," the odds are you will be even a bit more disappointed by this film. If, however, you enjoyed the first film or are a fan of Brashares, then "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" is easily a worthy experience.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic