The Austin Chronicle

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Rated PG-13, 117 min. Directed by Sanaa Hamri. Starring Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel, Jesse Williams, Rachel Nichols, Tom Wisdom, Rachel Ticotin.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Aug. 8, 2008

If you had any notions of getting through The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 without having your emotions pushed, prodded, pounded, and kneaded like so much pizza dough, you can forget about them right now. In author Ann Brashares' fairy-tale world – with its quartet of teenage friends standing on the border between womanhood and giggling girlishness; its chiseled, bland princes; its seaside palaces; its dead parents; its occasional wicked (or at least catty) witches and stepsisters; and, of course, its magical jeans – the lesson to be learned is that love and friendship conquer all … and you’re going to learn it whether you like it or not. Picking up three years after the events of the first Traveling Pants movie, 2 finds its four heroines scattered about following their freshman year in college. Pixieish Lena (Bledel) decides to take art classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she also hopes to heal her newly broken heart in the company of a swoon-worthy nude model/free-spirited artist/all-around romantic sap named Leo (Williams). Irrepressible blonde Bridget (Lively) is off to Turkey to exhume skeletons on an archaeological expedition, while avoiding the metaphorical ones still lingering in her psyche as the result of her mother’s suicide. The movie’s narrator and emotional center, Carmen (Ferrera), incurs the jealous wrath of a friend by falling into a starring role in The Winter’s Tale at a Shakespeare festival in Vermont, despite the fact that she’s never acted before. And the eternally sassy Tibby (Tamblyn) is in New York, working at a video store and trying to figure out her place in the world of adult relationships and responsibilities. So already you have four storylines that are begging for deeper examination, storylines that deal with some of the really juicy issues: love, death, envy, fear. But The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 isn’t interested in depth, and it doesn’t trust what it has; its only interest is in achieving the absolute peak level of female camaraderie, nostalgic sentimentality, and emotional catharsis. So by the time the four girls reunite in Greece, dozens of other plots and subplots have been introduced and disappeared again in a soap-opera whirlwind, most of them merely obstacles set up to be leaped over or pushed aside with narrative ease, and each one squeezing … squeezing … squeezing (like a python) the desired emotional responses from audiences and then whipping them into complete sentimental submission.

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