It's not just that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is meant for a young female audience, and that this audience does not include me. It's that it's meant for a young female audience that is intimately familiar with the details of the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie, from 2005. The sequel picks up plot threads from the first film on the assumption that the viewer is already keenly interested in them, without bothering to demonstrate why we should be. Technically, that's bad. You're not supposed to do that. Naughty movie!
As you may recall from that first movie, or from the multiple young-adult novels on which the films are based, the Sisterhood comprises four teenage girls who found a magical pair of blue jeans some time ago and now take turns wearing them. The pants are merely a narrative device, however; the story has very little to do with them. Do not go into the film expecting a pants-based story, or you will be sorely disappointed. Mostly the point is to show us what the four girls did over the summer after their first year of college. They went four different places. Four lifelong best friends, and the movie keeps them separated from each other most of the time. Smart.
Bridget (Blake Lively), the soccer player, is on an archeological dig in Turkey. Lena (Alexis Bledel), the art student, is taking a figure-drawing class and having a crush on the nude model, Leo (Jesse Williams), while recovering from the devastating news that the Greek boy she met in the last film, Kostos (Michael Rady), has married someone else. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), the would-be filmmaker and rebel girl, is working at a video store and freaking out because she had sex with her boyfriend Brian (Leonardo Nam) and now thinks she might be pregnant. And Carmen (America Ferrera), the theater techie and our narrator, is at a theater workshop in Vermont, where the handsome British actor Ian (Tom Wisdom) goads her into auditioning for an acting role.
So everyone has their meet-cute stories and their romantic entanglements except for Bridget, whose quarter of the film is somber and dull. Her mother has died and she wants to reconnect with her grandmother (Blythe Danner), who talks like Blanche on The Golden Girls and has been sending Bridget letters that have been intercepted by her father. The movie does not explain why he did this, or why Bridget is so interested in her grandmother. It must have been mentioned in the last film, or maybe we're just supposed to know from reading the books. At any rate, yawn. You could cut Bridget out of the movie altogether for all I care.
Then there's Carmen, who gets a lead in the play after an audition that consists, literally, of reading one line of dialogue. Her friend and roommate, Julia (Rachel Nichols), a serious actress, is jealous of this and of Carmen's interaction with Ian. (Note: When you see a British character named Ian, you think, "Shouldn't he be named Nigel? Isn't Nigel the default setting for all British characters in unimaginative screenplays?" But don't worry -- there's a Nigel in this movie, too, so all the generic bases are covered.) Julia gets petty and back-stabby. Et cetera.
The four Sisterhood girls go through the expected low-impact adolescent angst with boyfriends and relationship drama and so forth, occasionally keeping in touch with one another but mostly drifting apart. But they are reunited in the end, just in time for an unnecessary and lengthy tangent involving Lena and the Greek guy and the pants.
In my review of the first "Sisterhood," I wrote: "Where the film struggles a bit is in the end, when it obsessively goes around and wraps up every loose end, including minor ones where the audience's guess at how it would end was probably adequate. The consequence of this is that the film wears out its welcome, going on for at least 15 minutes more than it needs to." Well, it's as if someone heard my complaint and said, "You think the first movie was too long? I'll show you too long!" The sequel, directed this time by Sanaa Hamri (Something New) but again written by Elizabeth Chandler, feels like it's ending at about the 95-minute mark before introducing that Greek subplot and dragging us along with it.
For fans of the books and the first movie, perhaps it's a delight to spend as much time as possible with these characters. But it's unwise for a filmmaker to assume people are already emotionally attached. Like Sex and the City, this one is strictly for the already-converted.
* * * * *
Eric D. Snider's pants never get to travel anywhere.