By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Republished from the Aug. 7, 2008, issue of the Guide in Bluffton, S.C.
About halfway into an opening-night showing of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” surrounded by gaggles of teenage girls, I realized what I was watching, and it wasn’t a movie.
“Traveling Pants 2″ isn’t like any other film I’ve seen. It’s more like a seminar, or a session, and every girl between the ages of 12 and 20 is cordially invited. And for two hours, they can witness their ideal female selves traverse the minor tragedies of young adulthood, free of real emotional devastation or heartbreak.
Sure, “Traveling Pants 2″ is dishonest by design, but to mention that critically is to miss the point. This movie is catharsis on film, like “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.”
“Traveling Pants 2″ is a sequel to the 2005 movie about four best friends, all of them strikingly beautiful, all of them types or avatars. They’re bound by a pair of jeans they purchased in the first movie that magically fit and accent their varied physiques perfectly.
Carmen (America Ferrara), the pudgy, ethnic, sharply intelligent outsider, studies drama at Yale. As her three best friends move further away from each other and deeper into their own lives, Carmen struggles with the distance.
Lena (Alexis Bledel), the gorgeous, elegantly restrained sketch artist, suffers her own quiet devastation after her first love, a Greek fisherman and college student she met in the first movie, marries and impregnates another woman. She wades into a relationship with a nude model from her art class who looks like he was sculpted from clay.
Bridget Vreeland (Blake Lively), the wandering blond beauty mostly defined by the suicide of her mother four years earlier, discovers her parents inexplicably kept her from her grandmother, who wrote her unanswered letters for years. She sets out to find her grandmother and, hopefully, answers about her mother.
Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), the sarcastic, severe and slightly goth wannabe screenwriter, loses her virginity while studying film at New York University. (All of them attend tremendous colleges.) She spends the majority of the movie avoiding her lovingly earnest boyfriend after their condom breaks during sex, igniting a pregnancy scare and a crisis about her relationship skills. “I should have been a guy,” she tells Lena.
That’s really, like, the whole movie, to be honest. “Traveling Pants 2″ addresses real problems — deep, dark problems, particularly Bridget’s — but it chooses to remain comfortably in the shallows. Even while characters suffer heavy trauma the movie manages to still whisper, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Just wait for the ending. You’ll get through this.”
And then it hurtles in the last 15 minutes to an indulgent, all-hands-on-deck climax involving the traveling pants, which are more symbolic than anything else.
At the end of the movie, a fellow reporter leaned over, chuckled sarcastically and said, “So predictable.”
“Yeah, completely,” I said. But now I realize that’s kind of the point.