Never Go Commando In Another Girl's Fatigues
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | August 8, 2008 | Comments ()
This sequel to the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film, which I recently caught on DVD, is far less bearable than its mildly charming predecessor. Based upon the novels by Ann Brashares, the films’ shtick is that a quartet of female BFFs find a pair of magical jeans that fit all four of them. The girls firmly believe that the symbolism of these pants outweighs any of the things that ordinary groups of friends normally covet, like, say, friendship bracelets or vials of blood. Quite simply, these pants were fated to hold the four girls together as group. Somehow, this concept worked, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants became a moderately successful sleeper film. Then, the misguided sequel, in which screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler attempts to sew three Brashares novels together, inevitably arrived. Now, three years later, the girls are at separate universities and still merrily FedEx-ing those damn pants to each other. Naturally, the magical pants still fit each of them, despite varying heights and vastly different body type. The sequel, however, is much more of a “chick flick” than the original film, and, as a female and by default, I am supposed to love this film. Admittedly, there’s nothing overtly wrong with this film, and, you’d think that I could identify with the whole coming-of-age, college-educated, boy-crazy female thing. If only this sequel wasn’t woven together in such a vacuously condescending manner.
Unlike its predecessor, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is helmed by Sanna Hamri, a director who is quite experienced in the art of music videos, particularly those of Mariah fucking Carey. Hamri also has some television experience, but, clearly, this skill hasn’t translated well to the big screen. Hamri’s summertime sequel comes across as very episodic, and instead of merely being slightly absurd, these funky blue jeans are now just a gimmick. The pants push the plot, button up the loose ends, justify the long stretches of nothingness that are interrupted by abruptly jarring switches of character and scenery, and, most importantly, add an extra twenty minutes to the film by taking the characters to the (cinematically trendy) shores of Greece. As Carmen (America Ferrera) narrates at the beginning of the film: “[W]e had to learn on our own how to become ourselves, without losing each other.” Indeed, these girls now lead separate lives: Carmen studies at Yale, Lena (Alexis Bledel) attends the Rhode Island School of Design, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is an NYU film student, and Bridget (Blake Lively) is doing the soccer thing at Brown University. With four separate storylines, you’d think this film would be pretty engaging or at least that the 1 hour and 57 minutes would easily pass by, but this clunker drags more slowly than Captain Pegleg attempting to smuggle a leg full of ferrite out of a particle accelerator.
Still, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 retains the premise of the original in that the main characters are four dynamic, multifaceted females who, as far as very young adults are concerned, pretty much have their shit together. All four girls are bright, talented, and highly aspirational, but, for some reason, three out of four girls receive storylines that mostly involve their love lives. Carmen pratfalls her way into the main role of Perdita in Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” and she somehow manages to land the very sexy and very British Ian (Tom Wisdom). Poor Lena finds her heart straying from her previous boyfriend, Kostos (Michael Rady), when she takes a figure drawing course and finds herself unwittingly attracted to a hunky nude model, Leo (Jesse Williams), who can not only take his clothes off but can cook great food too. Then, there is the punky Tibby, who is emotionally constipated and avoids actual discussions of substance. Her excuse for walking out of every conversation is, “I gotta go work on my screenplay,” which never seems to be what she’s actually doing. Mostly, she’s panicking over losing her virginity to a broken condom. You see, Tibby’s boyfriend, Brian “Stupidest Name Ever” McBrian (Leonardo Nam), who was also a virgin and, like guys with stupid names tend to do, used the condom he’d been carrying around in his wallet for two years. Only Bridget’s story carries any substance, and during a Turkey archeological dig, she is inspired by a vibrant Professor (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to seek out her estranged grandmother, Greta (Blythe Danner). It’s also worth noting that Blake Lively unexpectedly churns out the best performance of the film, although America Ferrera is competent as always.
The worst aspect of this film is that every depicted event is mundane to the point of tedium. As stated above, a lot happens, yet the film contains several empty stretches. For instance, the “broken condom” scene involves Tibby nervously claiming that, despite the whole sex thing, she’s still a feminist, which is followed by, like, ten minutes of Brian “My Parents Must Hate Me” McBrian wordlessly sputtering around the room before finally, tortuously, and painfully forcing out a few words about “a malfunction.” (Tibby shouldn’t have taken off those damn pants with this dude, I tell ya.) Not to worry though, every problem is conveniently dispensed with, and happy endings are awkwardly tied with a denim-coloured bow by the ending credits.
One slightly interesting diversion is Kyle MacLachlan as a flamboyant theater director. MacLachlan isn’t in the credits for this film, but “Mom with Screaming Kids” and “Male Video Store Customer” are obviously a priority. Then again, MacLachlan may have preferred, much in the manner of Mel Brooks, to keep the film’s hype focused solely on the the four lead actresses. Presumably, mythical legions of rabid “Desperate Housewives” fans would have packed the theaters just for him, so that’s quite the admirable stance. However, as gloriously dishy as MacLachlan is, that’s also an awfully presumptuous move. What’s even more brazen, however, is that the vast majority of this unworthy sequel revolves around the principle of reeling in Mr. Right, and that, right there, is wrong. To be perfectly straightforward though, this rambling review isn’t performing much valid criticism so much as it’s just filling space, which is pretty much what The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is all about.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be found at agentbedhead.com.