“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
2 out of 5 stars
Whoever said that “the heart wants what it wants” was a dunderhead. The heart is confusing, impulsive and bitter, and it never leaves you completely satisfied. Its spontaneity is, at the very least, taxing. Sounds curmudgeonly, but when watching four twenty-something women go through the standard tropes and worries of growing up, one can’t help but think that dating is silly. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” leaves one feeling this way.
The four girls of the first film are back. Amber Tamblyn (TV’s “Joan of Arcadia”) is Tibby, a caustic NYU film student. America Ferrara (TV’s “Ugly Betty”) is Carmen, a nebbish Yale theatre wannabe. Alexis Bledel (TV’s “The Gilmore Girls”) is Lena, a Rhode Island School of Design flake. And Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl”) is Bridget, an undeclared Brown worrier. They’re normal coming-of-age people like the rest of us. Right?
Well, no, not especially. They’re freaks, actually. They travel freely, never concerned about deadlines, schedules or the cost of randomly vacating Vermont for Greece. They solve their problems with sincere and adorable conversations that always express the right emotions. They find meaning in a crappy pair of jeans. Their problems are resolved in two hours.
It feels preposterous, as if the studio’s talking down to us when it presents life in such a simplified manner. The same can be said for Lifetime movies, ABC Family movies and any other sweet-minded youth film that promises resolution to all of life’s ills. Yeah, supposedly only 13-year-olds watch this, but it’s a disservice to their upbringing. There are just too many predictable films of this ilk that promise too much ease in life.
For example, when Tibby has a pregnancy scare, we’re presented with paranoid meandering, complete with insert shots of babies and Tamblyn’s worried face. It’s worthy of only the most lowly reels from junior high health class. Or when Lena must choose between the attractive nude model and the promising Greek fisherman-turned-economist, she chooses the one who dumped her, got married, had his marriage annulled and now wants a second chance? That’s not a spoiler, but it shows what’s wrong with this film’s logic in the context of its message.
Now, I don’t mean to completely trash the “Sisterhood.” It’s not a terrible film — just a redundant one, an old-studio ensemble pleaser like “The Women” or even the fairly recent “You’ve Got Mail.” The feeling is meant to be saccharine and cute, and it is — somewhat. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it is silly.
The film relies almost solely on the strength of its leads and the stories that surround them. Lively and Bledel have the most thankless roles, as their stories end with the requisite hugs and kisses. If only fights with parents and boyfriends were that easy.
Ferrara and Tamblyn have more to do, and they elevate the after-school special material with their amiability and surprising believability. When Tibby is confused about life’s coming prospects, it feels as if she weren’t just written that way. And when Carmen gets the lead in that Vermont-based play, we’re almost as excited and surprised as she is.
I never read Ann Brashares’s popular books, and I didn’t sit through all of the first film. But I’m calling this like I see it — a middling, partially successful youth drama.