The darkness of the theater created a good contrast – about ten minutes before I took my seat to watch Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when it came out a few years ago, I was standing in the parking lot, bright Texas sun high overhead baking the gravel beneath my feet, halfway to sober. Yes, I had been drinking in the middle of the day. Back then, it was my friends’ hobby to go see bad movies after a few beers and the mandatory travel flask of whiskey. That’s how I lived through National Treasure.
This is the reason I don’t remember Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I don’t remember having my heart warmed. I don’t remember sharing a tear. I do remember looking over at my friend Travon as he pulled out one of the three Coronas he had stashed haphazardly in his army jacket.
Although I say that as a caveat to my review – I imagine I’m like most guys out there, the ones who were dragged to the original in the first place but turned off the memory receptors just in case they erased the memory cell that stored who won the 1989 Stanley Cup (Calgary Flames) by accident. They are being dragged again, and won’t have the benefit of knowing what went on in the first movie, but that’s okay.
Where the first film found the friends finding a pair of jeans that bonds them together, the sequel is really about how their lives start drifting apart. Or at least start drifting in new directions. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is at NYU studying film and struggling with having sex for the first time with her boyfriend. Lena (Alexis Bledel) is getting over a broken heart, which means allowing herself to fall for the nude model in her class at Rhode Island School of Design. Bridget (Blake Lively) finds a box of letters that inspires her to reform her relationship with her grandmother. Carmen (America Ferrera) goes to help a new friend at a private acting camp and ends up taking the stage herself.
Teenage girls are going to love this movie. It has a lot of shocking, shriek-worthy moments and features a heavy amount of male eye candy. The story deals real issues that will resonate well with that audience, and, since they are handled tastefully, parents are going to be happy. The boyfriends and husbands who get dragged along are not going to fall in love with it, but that’s no surprise.
The surprising thing is – it’s not a bad movie, even if you’re a guy. There are some funny moments that will transcend gender and Bridget’s storyline is emotionally moving in a universal way since it deals with family. However, the bulk of the action is pretty sappy since the other girls are primarily dealing with that eternal “finding out who you are” question, and, of course, cute boys. Not sappy enough to make you gag or hilariously pantomime sticking a finger down your throat to your drunken, male friends down the row, and your girlfriend Cindy sees you and makes you sleep at your place for the first time in months, but you make it up to her by buying her that dolphin pendent she said she wanted. Not that bad. But, it is a chick flick, and there’s enough irrational, teenage decision-making to frustrate even the most empathetic of male viewers.
As for filmmaking, it’s actually an innovative way of storytelling. The four stories are woven together in such a way that we see each individual girl dealing with her own issues most of the time, punctuated by a few moments where one goes to visit another, but everything works incredibly well. Having to juggle that many simultaneous stories, director Sanaa Hamri and the writers crafted scenes that are quick but fulfilling, filling screen time with great dialog that isn’t too thin but isn’t too heavy. It could have been chaotic, but it ended up being a perfect balance.
There are some outlandish aspects to the film – mostly that the girls lead such charmed lives – but no guy is going to die from boredom while watching this movie. If the squeals of delight, sharp intakes of air, and sobbing uncontrollably coming from the girls down the row from me are any indication, though, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is tailor made, pitch-perfect for its target audience. Guys, just try not to let your girlfriend catch you sipping your flask.