It doesn’t matter how prissy or punk a girl is — if a pair of jeans makes her backside look fabulous, it’s magic. And if the same pants fit her three differently shaped best friends equally as well, that’s a miracle.
On that point, not one woman can argue with Ann Brashares’ 2001 ode to pants perfection, the best-selling The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The book has spawned two sequels and now a feature film, likely because nary a 13-year-old girl can resist this blend of tween-friendly fare: fashion, boys, best friends and a little bit of drama.
The charms aren’t totally lost on former 13-year-old girls, either. Older audiences will find the movie in the same weight class as a good WB show — made-for-chicks fluff that’s just hefty enough to keep it real. Obviously, if you can’t stomach Gilmore Girls or you gag at the mention of a Ya-Ya Sisterhood, you won’t make it through the opening credits.
The sisters in denim include representatives of four teen archetypes: sarcastic alterna-girl Tibby (Amber Tamblyn); sassy but sweet Carmen (America Ferrera); shy and artistic Lena (Alexis Bledel); and sporty Bridget (Blake Lively). The foursome finds the aforementioned pants in a thrift store just before they’re set to part ways for the summer. They decide each will keep them for a week, and then pass them on; the idea being the pants will keep them connected and bring a little magic to their summer adventures.
The cheesy setup belies some thoughtful storytelling; each girl has demons to reckon with, but nothing gets solved too easily. Bridget’s reckless competitiveness leads her into a relationship with an older soccer coach. She realizes too late that she’s gotten in over her head, and needs her friends to bail her out of the ensuing emotional crash. Only Lena’s story, which is watered down for the film version to a mushy take on Romeo and Juliet, falls into a pit of gooey sentimentality. That’s fine, because Bledel still charms, which comes as no surprise to anyone who’s already seen her in her Gilmore glory.
The delightfully dour Tamblyn does teen angst to a T; Ferrara is alternately feisty and warm; and Lively vacillates perfectly between being confident and crushed. Their performances are dynamic and honest, which says a lot for a teen drama.
And as this is a teen drama, wearing the pants does bring on a lot of hugging, crying and ogling of young men. But that goes with the territory.
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].