The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Movie Review

Rising admirably above the bubble-gum genre norm, "TheSisterhood of the Traveling Pants" is a smart, charming, superblyacted summer-adventure matinee about four 17-year-old best friends separatedfor the first time but symbolically linked together by a pair of second-handjeans they share by mail.

Found to inexplicably fit each of them despite very differentbody types, the pants become a touchstone as they're sent from friend tofriend, giving each girl confidence, good luck or comfort from unexpectedhardship just when such encouragement is most needed.

Adapted from the first in a series of popular books byAnn Brashares, the movie has a foundation of coming-of-age cliches, butbuilds upon it beautifully with three-dimensional characters and honestangst, consternation and joy.

Alexis Bledel ("Gilmore Girls") plays shy, beautiful,lanky Lena, whose vacation in a stereotypical Greek fishing village comescomplete with a hunky local (Michael Rady) who rides a Vespa. This is "Sisterhood's"least creative storyline (it even has a "Romeo and Juliet" bent),but Bledel digs for emotional truth and finds it.

Tall, blonde and sporty Blake Lively -- a newcomer worthwatching -- plays bold and flirtatiously forward Bridget, who loses hervirginity by seducing a 20-something coach (Mike Vogel) at a seaside soccercamp in Baja California, grasping for intimacy in the wake of her mother'ssuicide and her father's indifference.

Outspoken yet vulnerable, plus-sized Carmen (talented AmericaFerrera from "RealWomen Have Curves") spends her summer feelinglike an outsider as her father (Bradley Whitford) prepares to wed a WASPy,halcyon minivan mom (Nancy Travis) with a pair of perfect, towheaded teenagers.Ferrera has the movie's most gut-wrenching breakdown as she confronts Dadabout his failure to even tell her about his fianc=E9e before she came tovisit.

But director Ken Kwapis ("He Said, She Said")channels the most emotional energy into the story of punky, cynical Tibby(Amber Tamblyn from "Joan of Arcadia"), a part-time drug-storedrone bitterly stuck at home and making a "suckumentary" aboutsuburban monotony. Tamblyn gives raw heart to a reluctant friendship witha 12-year-old neighbor (Jena Boyd) that takes a tragic, tearjerking turn.

"Sisterhood" nails its emotional tone and itscharacter depth so well that it's all the more disappointing when the picturedoes fall back on contrivances, like the cheesy opening voice-over, a circle-of-candlespants-christening ceremony, and its overly simplistic attempts to wax philosophical.

But because it's a energetic, competently-made film (vividlycolorful and creatively production design, good transitional editing) thatlets its young characters make real mistakes and find real trouble as theytransition realistically into a larger world, "Sisterhood" isexponentially more earnest, affecting and credible than 90 percent of moviesaimed at teenage girls -- and it's universal enough to appeal to women(and even men) in their 20s as well.


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, WIDE: Wednesday, June 1, 2005


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