Well, it looks like the sisterhood is growing up, since the lead characters spend most of their new adventure trying to get out of their traveling pants instead of reflecting fondly on the significance of them. It's a PG-13 world out there, people, and the sisterhood is finally growing up. It's a shame the sequel's screenwriting isn't showing the same maturity.
Now in college, life is different for the sisterhood, who've kept communication open through the mailing of a miraculous pair of jeans they've adorned with their hopes and dreams. Lena (Alexis Bledel) is spending the summer drawing nude figures, soon falling in love with a model while her Geek paramour leaves her behind for a new life. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) finds a pregnancy scare frightens her away from her true love. Carmen (America Ferrera) is overwhelmed when her set design internship at a theater company turns into a starring role. And Bridget (Blake Lively) finds the soul of her dead mother in a rekindled relationship with her long lost grandmother (Blythe Danner).
I felt I had to be somewhat kind to 2005's original "Pants" since I was an outsider to the fragile world author Ann Brashares created. It was a "girls only" affair with plenty of melodrama and heartache, yet cut with some fine performances from the leads. It was far from perfect, but there were certain sincere attributes to admire during the first go-around with the magical jeans clan.
The sequel comes with a lot more baggage, looking to juggle four distinctly separate subplots for actresses who are actually semi-household names at this point. Like the previous film, the characters don't spend much time together, instead they jet off to their own misadventures in life and love, splintering the movie's attention span. Director Sanaa Hamri ("Something New') is working uphill with "Pants 2," attempting to drum up at least a thimbleful full of genuine conflict to make the film feel worthwhile, but screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler fails her by simply relying on vapid formula.
It's clear that the two "Pants" movies are nothing but wish-fulfillment fantasies for young girls. "Pants 2" takes matters in more adult directions, using the dangers of sex as a lure to hook some sympathy for the characters, pulling out endless pockets of cash to globetrot, and parading around dreamboat male characters who put on a gym-rat body parade in place of actually providing needed dimension to the ladies. It's like a bizarro Russ Meyer film at times, with all the guys running around with huge boobs and tiny waists. It certainly made the female audience swoon at the screening I attended, but what "Pants 2" needed was a sliver of dramatic authenticity, not just predictability and a healthy dose of maudlin sentimentality to slip by.
Again, the four leads put in solid work here, doing what they can with limited screentime and the lack of interaction. Ferrera and Tamblyn are handed the most to do during the sequel, and they slog through the melodrama with some grace. Hamri is often at a loss as to what type of story she wants to tell, losing characters' individuality in the process. Thankfully, class-acts like Danner and Rachel Ticotin (as Carmen's pregnant mother) lend the film a nice dollop of professionalism to realign the dearth in focus.
Granted, I'm miles outside of the target demographic, and certainly "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" will make for awesome pajama party fodder, but the bloodless nature of this sequel is tiresome to witness. It's a candy-coated drama coasting on a once perceptible charm that's taken a vacation for this installment. You'd think the sexual misadventures of four beautiful actresses would be more entertaining to watch than this presentation of storytelling lethargy.
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