Warner Bros. // 2008 // 119 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // November 18th, 2008
"Some friends just fit together."
You can't not like the story of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Four friends, best friends, stay connected through a pair of bejeweled blue jeans that magically fit four very different body types and seem to make the troubles of teenagehood a little more manageable. But you can outgrow the story, as the second film in the Sisterhood collection demonstrates.
Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (America Ferrera), Lena (Alexis Bledel), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) are the above-mentioned friends, and in the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 they have just graduated from high school and have headed to college. This film focuses on their first summer after freshman year when they all "find themselves."
As far as travel films go, this movie is top notch. The conclusion of the film is shot in Santorini, Greece and no place could be better suited for film. The stark white buildings against the blue blue sea are breathtaking. Even on my crappy t.v., in my cave of an apartment, the footage of the scenes shot in Greece saturated my screen. I wanted the already widescreen format to wrap around my living room so I could take it all in -- I wanted to be in Greece, thanks to this film.
Unfortunately, unlike the first Sisterhood movie, only a small portion of the second film is centered in Greece. The rest of the film is supposedly shot in various locales -- an archaeological dig in Turkey, a theatre camp in Vermont, the streets of New York City, an art program somwhere -- but all of these locations feel staged (with the small exception of New York City). The dusty dig site in Turkey doesn't ring true and the theatre camp in Vermont just doesn't seem privileged enough. While the first movie has a visual heart, the second film just never feels settled.
Certainly, this unsettledness is part of the storyline. The girls are growing up and they are trying to find their personal identity as well as figure out how their sisterhood will fare as a unit as they enter adulthood. This bond is tested by distance and by drama, by boys and by parents, by ambition and by self confidence, or a lack there of.
In some ways, the movie is too rote and its story too cliched. Each girl is a color and their wardrobes, their activities, their vocabulary, even their choice of summer locale is constricted by one designated hue. Tibby is black and she must live in New York and wear odd, ill-fitting clothing, work on her screenplay and have a pregnancy scare.
Carmen is purple and therefore a theatre person, who wears her long hair flowing and plays the lead against a floppy-haired older man with an accent. Bridget belongs to the yellow family and she is the jock who can probably throw back shots with the guys and isn't afraid to dig in the dirt (quite literally). Lena is white, a blank, innocent canvas -- a passionate artist who constantly gets swept off her feet by dashing men.
But no one likes a story that's too cliched, too predictable and the screenwriter (Elizabeth Chandler) of this film and the author (Ann Brashares) of the novel the film is based on knows that. There are token hardships for these young women, some more prominent than others (Bridget's mother ends her own life, Carmen's mother has a baby with her new husband). But even these token hardships feel contrived, a mere shading of the characters' primary colors.
Even an accomplished, successful, different group of actresses can't make these characters seem real -- or maybe these characters are too real, too boring. The characters aren't vibrant, they don't jump off the screen like Ugly Betty does or Rory Gilmore did or apparently Gossip Girl does. If The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants were the defining roles for these young ladies, none of them would be household names. This movie is a stable addition to their careers -- at least it's not another Sin City installation -- but it's not the Real Women Have Curves, career-lofting sort of move that America Ferrera has in her pocket.
What is, or was, unique about this story and film -- besides glorious Greece -- was the notion that one pair of pants magically fit all these characters. But in this film the jeans are just a tacky accessory that is seldom shot with full lighting or full respect. In fact, the FedEx packaging that the jeans frequently arrive in caught my attention more than the actual pants. The point of worship was relegated to a prop in this film, and without this pagan altar, the movie is just lights and camera.
But, really, I can't say this movie is bad. This is a professional film, with a professional cast, and a likely, pleasing budget. The film is well edited and my attention was maintained. I even teared and laughed at the appropriate moments. The Special Features includes a wonderfully fluid gag reel that isn't too self indulgent, deleted scenes that are heartfeltedly introduced by the director (Sanaa Hamri) herself, and a cute story about how the final scene came to be. For the tweens and teens out there this movie is likely a pleasure.
Review content copyright © 2008 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* "Go Jump Off a Cliff"
* Deleted scenes
* Gag reel