Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

While this sequel to 2005's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants tries mightily to recapture the chemistry of the original, the intervening three years have seen major changes for the characters, and the actresses who embody them. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), America Ferrara (Ugly Betty), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) and Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) have all headlined successful television series in roles that combine maturity with naiveté, and each has quickly transcended the typical parts assigned to young women.

Meanwhile, shy artist Lena (Bledel), drama nerd Carmen (Ferrara), soccer star Bridget (Lively) and acerbic filmmaker Tibby (Tamblyn) have left Bethesda, Md., to attend East Coast universities, with only the ritual of the traveling pants keeping them connected. These jeans are embroidered with mementos of their experiences and miraculously fit four very different bodies perfectly, but now they feel uncomfortably like a vestige of adolescent BFF bonding. When the quartet gathers to renew the sisterhood pledge, the ritual feels more rote than relevant, and everyone senses the shift, whether they can fully acknowledge it or not.

Screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler and director Sanaa Hamri (Something New) try to express the mixed emotions of the transition from teen to adult, but they're only successful at demonstrating just how well these four function on their own. The first Sisterhood establishes their life-long friendship, shows the power they have together, and then follows them during their first summer apart. The sequel finds them already splintered, and then shatters the bond some more, resulting in a film that feels episodic and lacks any real sense of cohesion.

Chandler mixes storylines from the second, third and especially the fourth and final volume (Forever in Blue) of Ann Brashares' series of young adult books. With so much happening in their lives — a pregnancy scare and a welcome birth, broken hearts and renewed commitments, a surprising career path and a long-lost relative, and the use of many, many frequent flier miles — it's surprising how often it feels as if the girlfriends are just standing still.

As good as it is to revisit these appealing characters, too often The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 feels forced and arbitrary, like a reunion that didn't leave time enough for nostalgia to smooth over the rough edges. When it comes to relying solely on each other, these four newly independent women need to make sure they have a good Plan B.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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