You remember 2005's "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," don't you? If you're a female, you probably do. And if you're a male with a wife or a girlfriend, you probably do, too. If you're a guy living alone in a cabin in Alaska for the past decade, OK, maybe not. The first movie was sweet, gentle, romantic, heartwarming, and touching. It was just about everything a good, romantic, coming-of-age picture should be. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" offers more of the same and, I'm afraid, more of the same and more of the same. It feels tired and repetitious, as though we've seen it all before. As we have.
You'll recall (well, a few of you will recall) from the first picture that the filmmakers based the characters and events on the best-selling series of novels by Ann Brashares, the film telling the story of four lifelong best friends who were at that time sixteen-year-olds. Well, in 2008's "Traveling Pants 2" it's three years later, so the ladies are now about nineteen. Yet the two things that still keep them connected are their everlasting friendship and a pair of blue jeans they pass around for good luck. The pants magically fit all four of them, even though the girls are totally different shapes and sizes.
Once again, the filmmakers structure the story around the adventures of the four young women, this time in the summer after their first year of college, and again each of them has gone her own way, with the jeans the method of loosely tying their stories together. Only this time, the jeans hardly enter the picture at all, and the stories are rather routine, humdrum, and really, really mushy.
First, there's Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), who has gone off to NYU filmmaking school. She's working in a video store and dating a handsome young man named Brian (Leonardo Nam), with whom she's fallen in love. But love ain't easy. Her major conflict is a broken condom and the worry that she might be pregnant. She's not good at relationships.
Next, we have Lena (Alexis Bledel), who has gone to the Rhode Island School of Design. She's taking a figure-drawing class in the summer, where she meets a handsome young fellow named Leo (Jesse Williams) who's posing for the class. Trouble is, Lena is still pining for her lost love, the handsome young Greek lad, Kostos (Michael Rady). She's not good at relationships.
Third, we have Bridget (Blake Lively), who has made the soccer team at Brown but is spending the summer in Turkey with an archaeological dig. Her mother took her own life several years before, and she's been on bad terms with her father ever since. Then she finds some letters from her grandmother, Greta (Blythe Danner), buried away that complicate matters. She's not good at relationships.
Finally, there's Carmen (America Ferrera), who is now at Yale and spending the summer working in a play in Vermont. It is her story that is the most interesting and the center of attention, probably because Carmen is the most interesting of the four girls. As before, she is still experiencing identity and self-confidence issues, which meeting Ian (Tom Wisdom), a handsome young British actor, only intensifies. She's not good at relationships.
The director this time, Sanaa Hamri, whose previous work has been mainly in TV, intercuts from one story to the other about every two minutes, giving Carmen's story the most attention. Deservedly. Carmen is the least glamorous of the four female leads and, thus, the easiest actress in the company with whom an audience might identify. Carmen also seems to have the most accessible problems in her life, although some of the incidents she encounters seem improbable, even for a fantasy romance.
The biggest concern here, though, is that with four characters and four different stories in a two-hour movie, it only gives each story about thirty minutes in which to work. That's not much time to develop the conflicts or the characters. Worse, because the filmmakers crosscut the narrative so often, we hardly get a chance to see anything unfold very far before it's off to another girl's story. The filmmakers managed it the first time around, but not this time.
While the movie and the characters remain as sweet as ever, this time out they're more sugary sweet, more melodramatically sudsy. I mean, there is only so much hugging, kissing, and crying and so much syrupy music a person can take in one movie. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" has enough of these timeworn, romantic movie ingredients for four such pictures. When the quartet of girls wind up diving off a cliff in the sun-drenched Greek island of Santorini, we get about as far from reality as a film can take us.
Trivia note: If you were to watch this movie back-to-back with "Cast Away," you'd get the longest FedEx commercial in the history of advertising.
The video quality is fine without distinguishing itself in any particular way. Warners use a anamorphic transfer for the 1.85:1 ratio picture, which ensures intensely rich colors and deep black levels. Definition is OK, varying somewhat from scene to scene. When it's good, the delineation and detailing are excellent; other times, things are a bit too soft. I can't imagine anyone complaining about the way the picture looks, though.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is more nondescript than the video. If the characters didn't speak, you'd hardly know it was there. The soundtrack is front loaded, with most of the dialogue, music, and sound effects coming from the forward channels. Every now and then, you hear some musical bloom in the surrounds as well as the occasional environmental noise--cars, birds, crowds. There is little need for a wide dynamic range or an extended frequency response, so we don't get them. Fortunately, the midrange is smooth and natural, and voices come across realistically.
The extras begin with a short, four-and-half-minute featurette, "Go Jump Off a Cliff," which details the origins of the film's climactic scene in Greece. Then there are four additional, deleted scenes, each introduced by the director, totaling about eight-and-a-half minutes. And there's a four-minute gag reel. That's about it, except for access to a digital copy of the film (Windows media compatible only); twenty-five scene selections; a few trailers at start-up; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
There's isn't much going on in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" that seems fresh, innovative, inspiring, uplifting, or even very romantic. It's mostly a collection of stereotypes and clichés, culminating in exactly the climax one would expect. The movie should satisfy fans of the books and maybe even satisfy some, but not all, fans of the first film. I enjoyed the first film immensely, for instance, but found this second installment rather commonplace and monotonous. On the other hand, the Wife-O-Meter thought this second film was just as sweet as the first film but dealt in slightly more adult issues.
As Truman said, "The pants stop here." Or maybe not. I could see our following these characters into their old age, with the pants slowly dissolving into tatters. We shall see.