Dir: Sanaa Hamri. US. 2008. 118 mins.
A sequel to the 2005 big-screen adaptation of Ann Brashares' novel about a quartet of young girls who discover a pair of jeans that mysteriously fits each of them perfectly, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is a painted-within-the-lines drama that skates by on its charisma, colour and solid casting. Even more so than the original which was about the girls' first, fretful summer apart, this movie plays out as a quartered anthology about the awkward bridge between adolescence and adulthood.
Three summers ago, the first film pulled in $39 million domestically. The rising profiles of two of its stars (Ugly Betty's America Ferrera and Gossip Girl's Blake Lively) might give it a slight bump, but it's the literary franchise value and nostalgia for the first film as much as anything else that will help the movie find some enthusiastic support amongst tweens and younger women.
Interweaving the jeans as a symbol, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is basically four mini-movies taped together, with a fair bit of connective tissue. On soccer scholarship at Brown, Bridget (Lively) goes on a summer archaeological dig to
An NYU film school student who works part time in a video store, Tibby (Tamblyn) suffers a pregnancy scare with her boyfriend.
Carmen (Ferrera) heads to
Caught up with new friends and problems, and flames both old (Rady, Nam) and new (Williams, Wisdom), the girls find their commitment to keeping in touch, and mailing the jeans to each other after one-week shifts, tested.
In trying to peddle the mini-narratives of each character, the movie loses the major theme that would tie this all together -- that of trusted old friendships fraying, and slipping apart. Screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler, working solo after a shared credit on the first film, succeeds early on in capturing some of the 'can't-go-home-again' feeling of college-age kids - of trying to share experiences with people who have moved on in their own way. A big part of the problem lies in the compression of three novels (there are four books in all, chronicling successive summers) into a single tale.
Director Sanaa Hamri (Something New) showcases her skill chiefly by soliciting lived-in performances from all her supporting players, whose stories mostly only service or intersect with one character. It's this tonal consistency that helps root the movie and hold the attention.
The four leads are all capable stewards of their characters, each with their own sunniness and charm. Ferrera's naturalism and Tamblyn's skill with a mordant quip give their characters some pop, and the aforementioned Williams and
Technical credits are solid across the board, with the production design and cinematographic choices helping frame the movie as comfortably realistic, neither too gritty nor too sweet.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Debra Martin Chase
Denise Di Novi
Elizabeth Chandler, from the novels by Ann Brashares