The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Movie Review

You don't need to be a teenage girl to enjoy The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I thought it was a fun movie, if not a bit disingenuous. For every truth the movie offers into the secret lives of girls, a pat resolution or a schmaltzy moment follows. It's not a perfect movie, except for the young girls this movie beckons to.

Based on Ann Brashares' novel, Pants focuses on four 16-year-olds, all lifelong friends. Bridget (Blake Lively) is the go-getter of the bunch and a soccer star in the making; Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is a sarcastic, wannabe filmmaker who favors black on her clothes and blue in her hair; Lena (Alexis Bledel) is the prudent one of the bunch; and Carmen (the outstanding America Ferrera), the narrator, is an aspiring writer and the only one whose body actually has curves.

The girls are inseparable, so it's no surprise that they're all together, shopping at a thrift store, when they discover a pair of blue jeans that fits each one perfectly. With the summer taking them their separate ways, the friends hatch a plan to keep their sisterhood alive. Each one will wear the jeans for a week and mail it to the next girl, who will write about her experiences wearing the magical article of clothing.

It's a pretty busy summer for the foursome. While at summer camp in Mexico, Bridget falls in love with her older soccer coach (Mike Vogel); Lena tries to avoid falling in love with a hunky fisherman in Greece; Tibby befriends a talkative 12-year-old who helps with her film; and Carmen gets thrown into the middle of her father's remarriage. The well-edited subplots keep the movie moving, an array of awkward, truthful moments are nailed by director Ken Kwapis and his cast.

The best subplot concentrates on Bridget's growing infatuation with her soccer coach. Throughout the movie, Kwapis and screenwriters Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler, sprinkle hints that driven, fearless Bridget is an emotional wreck. At camp, she's surrounded by players with concerned mothers who send care packages, while her recently widowed dad sends her a typed one-sentence letter. She dresses like the aerobics instructor in a Cinemax late night movie; couple that with her need for comfort and something bad is going to happen.

As real as Bridget's ordeal and Carmen's storyline of her father marrying into an all-white family feel, Tibby and Lena's subplots feel goofy. Tibby's friendship with the neighborhood girl (Jenna Boyd) gets a case of Love Story schmaltzitis, with Boyd's performance so professional and polished that she sounds like a self-help guru. Tibby's forbidden Greek love story (errr....) feels old and isn't helped by Bledel's performance. She starts off meek and unsure and sounds the same way two hours later, reading every line as if it's broken glass she has to carefully avoid.

Even Carmen and Bridget's summer stories, good as they are, get shafted by sheer plot stupidity and the movie's overriding desire to "make everything OK." Why would Carmen's dad (an oddly cast Bradley Whitford) wait until the day she stays with him for the summer to reveal his remarriage? Also, after Bridget's awkward experience with her soccer coach, would the guy seek her out to apologize, while propositioning her two minutes later?

Pants makes the point -- and it's a good one -- that friends can get each other through the tough times. The message would have been more effective if Kwapis, Ephron, and Chandler had stuck to their guns and urged awareness and independence in their young female audience, a la Waiting to Exhale. Not all guys apologize for their indiscretions. Every international romance doesn't bloom. Guys -- fathers, lovers, and brothers -- can be dogs. The sisterhood might want to try their pants/letter-writing exchange another time before college rolls around.

The DVD adds deleted scenes, a cut of Tibby's in-film documentary, selected scenes with commentary, and a bunch of making-of shorts. Shorts, get it!?

These pants are made for shopping.

Comments

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, 2005

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