The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Although perhaps better suited as a Disney Channel movie than a feature film, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is nonetheless a heartwarming, comical, and even tragic film, showing friendship at its finest. Young girls especially should eat it up.
Based on the best-selling novel by Ann Brashares, the story centers on four best friends--Lena (Alexis Bledel), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Bridget (Blake Lively) and Carmen (America Ferrera)--who realize that they are about to spend their first summer away from each other. On one last shopping spree, they find a pair of jeans that fits all of them, odd considering their different body shapes. It must mean the pants are magical and will bring them good luck. So the girls make a pack that each of them will spend one week with the pants and then send them off to the next girl. Lena, the shy, self-conscious artist, who is spending the summer in Greece with her grandparents, takes the pants first--and meets the hunky Kostas (Michael Rady). Tibby, a rebel ''suckumentary'' filmmaker, who marches to the beat of her own drum, gets them next. But as tough as Tibby thinks she is, she learns some invaluable life lessons through her chance encounter with an extraordinary girl, Bailey (Jenna Boyd). Then it's Bridget's turn, a vivacious blonde, who spends her summer playing soccer in Mexico and displays some reckless behavior with a hands-off camp coach (Mike Vogel). Finally, there's Carmen, a spit-fire writer, who decides to spend some quality time with her wayward dad. Yet, upon arrival, she is greeted with a not-so-pleasant surprise when her father (Bradley Whitford) introduces her to his very white-bred fiancé (Nancy Travis) and her two teenage children. These four realize in the end whatever magic there is comes from their enduring friendship.
The ensemble cast of fresh faces makes Sisterhood entirely watchable. Tamblyn of TV's Joan of Arcadia's gives the strongest performance as Tibby. The talented actress really digs in, executing perfectly Tibby's tough-on-the-outside-but-a-real-softie-underneath persona. Ferrera, best known for her stellar performance in the indie hit Real Women Have Curves, is another standout as Carmen, a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, especially when she finally confronts her dad about never being there for her. Boyd (The Missing), too, is quite affecting as Tibby's new, rather outspoken friend, harboring a tragic secret of her own.. Newcomer Lively does an adequate job playing Bridget, who we think is pretty, blonde and carefree but who has really been left with a void after the death of her mother. Had she put in a little more effort, though, she could have been the star of the show. Only Bledel fails to inspire. Watching her is just like an extended episode of her TV show, Gilmore Girls, both boring and lackluster. She doesn't seem to stretch herself in any way.
This is every teenage girls story, being with the best of friends but also being ''afraid of time, and not having enough of it.'' At least this is what author Ann Brashares wanted to convey when she wrote the critically acclaimed, hugely popular book. TV director Ken Kwapis understands this; Sisterhood bleeds heart and soul. While the pacing seems to drag a bit and the maudlin factor heighten in parts, the movie nonetheless mixes the right amount of comedy, tragedy, and the difficulties of being 16, on the cusp of adulthood. Sisterhood is also beautifully shot, especially the scenes in Greece. Kwapis shows the beauty and history of this magnificent country in a way that makes you want to grab your passport and take a trip there. But being that the movie is already a tad slow, even the many picturesque Greek moments seem unnecessary. Sisterhood could have shaved a good half hour to make it a more concise movie.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the Beaches for teenage girls. Maybe a bit plodding and irrelevant to an older set, it will still touch anyone who remembers sharing the strong bond of friendship.