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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // November 18, 2008
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted November 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"When we found a pair of pants that by some miracle fit each of us perfectly, we took it on fate that they'd come into our lives
for a reason."
- Carmen

The Movie
Every so often, I'm embarrassed to admit I love a movie--not because it's bad, but (usually) because it's clearly aimed at 12-year-old girls. Such was the case with 2005's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, an exhilarating rush of feel-good teenage girl power that had me smiling wide and getting all teary eyed from my matinee-priced seat (it's less embarrassing that way). The film focused on four high schoolers who miraculously found a pair of jeans that fit them all perfectly. The denim became the connecting thread between the four characters, whose stories unfolded as the jeans were passed around among them--bringing them luck along the way.

Three years later, along comes the sequel, also based on the young-adult books from Ann Brashares (this installment is based on the fourth book in the series, Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood). A few summers have passed since we last left the young women, who are now in college: Tibby (Joan of Arcadia's Amber Tamblyn) is a film student at NYU; Bridget (Blake Lively, who has since hit it big on Gossip Girl) plays soccer at Brown; Lena (Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls) has received a scholarship at the Rhode Island School of Design; while Carmen (America Ferrera, who has since hit the big time on Ugly Betty) has an interest in theater at Yale.

Carmen excitedly returns to New York for the summer, but when she realizes her friends have plans--Bridget is headed to Turkey for archeological class, Tibby has to write a screenplay for summer school and Lena is taking a drawing class--she decides to head to Vermont as a stagehand intern at a prestigious theater arts festival. Once again, the jeans are passed from friend to friend--but they all start to wonder if the good luck has faded as they start to face adversity.

Tibby faces a pregnancy scare after losing her virginity to boyfriend Brian (Leonardo Nam, in one of a handful of supporting male eye candy roles); Bridget still struggles with the suicidal death of her mother and resultant distance from her father, eventually seeking help from her estranged grandmother Greta (Blythe Danner); Lena tries to move on from her breakup with Greek heartthrob Kostas (Michael Rady) by dating New York heartthrob Leo (Jesse Williams); while Carmen becomes an accidental actress, earning her the admiration of co-star Ian (Tom Wisdom) and the ire of friend Julia (Rachel Nichols). She nabs the role of Perdita in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, an appropriate character for a young woman also looking for her own identity ("She knows what she believes in, and sticks to that").

The film unfolds with heartfelt yet sometimes melodramatic motion--some plot developments are too forced, unnaturally propelling the story at the expense of its otherwise relatable characters. A few developments (especially one I hated involving Lena's sister) and sudden character appearances (like Costas and Greta) felt highly contrived, just like the syrupy conclusion (man, these young women must have a lot of money to travel so much!). And while I preferred the direction of Ken Kwapis in the original, Sanaa Hamri (best known for Something New) still manages to craft a likeable although sometimes rushed, music video-esque film. (But how can you not fall in love with those scenes in Santorini?!)

Sisterhood works well when all the friends are together, but is at its best with the story arcs involving Carmen and Lena. Ferrera and Bledel shine, giving their characters a lot more depth and believable emotion than their co-stars. Bridget's storyline has meaning but feels too phony, and it's hard to concentrate on Lively when she's sharing the screen with Emmy winner Danner (although I'm not digging that Southern accent) and Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo. Tibby is supposed to be the funny one, but her jokes fall flat and her storyline is too shallow, by far the least engaging of the bunch (which is more of a writing problem). Tamblyn has charisma, but she frequently plays Tibby a little too abrasive, high strung and moody (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre punch line--seen in the trailer--is the perfect example of a juvenile joke that has me rolling my eyes in disappointment).

Still, when all is said and done, these are people you end up rooting for. What's most impressive about these films is how they take the characters, stories and audience seriously--even if some of the dialogue relies on obvious "important" messages ("Cars are easy--it's people you need a manual for!"). Given the unending supply of awful films aimed at young women, it's refreshing to see something that doesn't hide behind unrealistic ideals, commercialized characters or narrow demographics. The film emphasizes the importance of being true to yourself without making a big deal about it, instead focusing on the believable problems of likeable people.

Sure, the Sisterhood still has some saccharine, but that's a small price to pay for the solid performances from the cast, the admirable message about growing up--and the importance of friends and family. Bring on Part 3, please, before I get too old to be seen in the theater.

The DVD

Video:
The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is very strong, typical of current wide releases. A lot of the film has a warm brown tone to it and colors are frequently muted, but it's a pretty detailed image that never disappoints--especially during the gorgeous shots set in Greece.

Audio:
The 5.1 track makes moderate use of rear channels, but just enough to let you know it's thinking of your ears. The dialogue and music is crisp and sharp throughout. The track is also available in French and Spanish, while subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Extras:
Just a few brief extras are included, disappointing considering most of the main players are here. Go Jump Off a Cliff (4:21) talks with the cast, producers and director Sanaa Hamri (sadly, no word from author Ann Brashares) about one sequence in the film (and I have a hard time believing the origins of the scene--it's almost too cute to be true). You also get four deleted scenes that run together with cheesy commentary from Hamri (totaling 8:28). None of them are very interesting. Far better is the gag reel (4:03), a brief look at some mildly amusing flubs and fun from the cast. Trailers round out the package.

Final Thoughts:
While it isn't quite as fun as the original, this sequel about the lives of four friends bound together by a pair of jeans is still enjoyable. Led by great performances from America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel, it's able to overcome some minor issues as it imparts life lessons on growing up and being yourself--and the true value of family and friends. And with so many awful films with awful characters thrown at young women today, this one is a rare, refreshing alternative that never insults the intelligence of its characters--or us. Recommended.

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