Sanaa Hamri’s ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2’ (2008)

27Apr09

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants succeeded as an entertaining film for teen-aged girls that adults could also enjoy due in large part to the four talented young actresses it showcased. Amber Tamblyn and Alexis Bledel were the “big names” on that movie, Tamblyn because of her Emmy nod for Joan of Arcadia and Bledel for her long-standing role on Gilmore Girls. In the three years since its release, Joan stopped talking to God, the Girls stopped talking so fast, and Tamblyn and Bledel stepped back a bit from the public eye since their shows’ cancellations. In contrast, America Ferrera and Blake Lively landed successful television series in the intermediary years, and Ferrera won the Triple Crown of TV awards in 2007 for her role on Ugly Betty. With a different director and the absence of one of the screenwriters from the first film, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 feels like a typical Hollywood attempt to cash in on Ferrera and Lively’s new fanbases with a quickly slapped-together sequel, and unfortunately the end product seems to support that inclination.

The film takes most of its plot from Forever in Blue, the fourth and final book of the Traveling Pants series, but borrows bits from the second and third books as well. This piecemeal approach may have contributed to the aimlessness of the plot, but ultimately screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler fails to create a coherent story with any emotional resonance. Neither Chandler nor the actors really seem to know where the characters are going, and because the emotional journeys remain inscrutable the characters end up having to say what’s going on in their heads so that the audience can figure out what has happened.

None of the four stories work particularly well, but Lena’s rebound romance with an artist named Leo is probably the most successful, and not just because Jesse Williams is so pretty. Carmen’s storyline about unintentionally becoming the lead in a production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale turns out to be too much About A Guy when it should be about Carmen gaining confidence and a renewed sense of self after feeling lost during her first year of college. Bridget leaving Turkey to visit her estranged grandmother in Alabama is just unfathomable, though I always enjoy seeing the lovely and talented Blythe Danner, especially when she’s sporting a honeyed Southern drawl. Tibby’s pregnancy scare and subsequent fears about getting close to people feels underdeveloped, and how frustrating that Tibby and Brian have an entire conversation about a condom breaking during sex without ever actually using the word “condom.”

The acting from the four leads is something of a mixed bag. Bledel, Tamblyn, and Lively are solid, though not trying too hard in their separate storylines, but Ferrera seems downright bored. Just like its predecessor, the film really comes to life, or more accurately wakes from its coma, when they have scenes together. Once again, Tamblyn and Ferrera get the heavy lifting with a tense scene in which they argue about their mutual feelings of abandonment, but Bledel also has a moment to shine and gives the most genuine emotional display that I’ve ever seen out of her. These actresses obviously enjoy each other’s company and their chemistry sparkles, making the script’s lack of meaty material all the more lamentable.

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