Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

'Sisterhood' Grows Up, But Just Enough

With "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," the sisterhood has grown up. When last we left the quartet of friends who each, no matter what their size, magically fit into the same pair of thrift-store jeans, the neighborhood pals were experiencing a summer away from each other.

Now three years have passed since audiences last saw Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Carmen (America Ferrera), Bridget (Blake Lively) and Lena (Alexis Bledel). They were 16 then and just beginning to realize the possibilities that awaited them beyond the place where they all grew up.

"The Sisterhood'' remains somewhat powerful
Too, too long, these traveling pants. They're dragging on the ground, wearing out and wearing out their welcome.

But that's the only big hole in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,'' a sequel that actually improves, slightly, on the boy-crazy original.

It's about four disparate friends who stay connected through that one magical pair of blue jeans that fits the tall, the small, the slim and the zaftig among them. They share the pants by FedEx over their long summers and write letters detailing the adventures they have in those special jeans.

The four girls — America Ferrera is drama student Carmen, Amber Tamblyn is Boho film student Tibby, Alexis Bledel is Lena, the painter with a thing for Greek boys, and Blake Lively is soccer-playing archaeologist Bridget — are young women in college now. Carmen made it to the Yale School of Drama, where she's a little too eager to work backstage, avoiding the limelight.

"I'm pretty sure I'm right where I belong,'' she says. But that'll be tested when she goes to work for the very theatrical director played by Kyle MacLachlan, in summer stock.

Bridget is off to Turkey to dig up some ancient Greek ruins, with the help of a kindly professor played by the great Shohreh Aghdashloo ("The House of Sand and Fog'').

Lena gets over the lost Greek boyfriend from the first film with an even prettier painter-artist-model (Jesse Williams) in her art class.

funny one, goes through all sorts of melodrama with her film school beau, Brian (Leonardo Nam).

This was always pure fantasy, pretty girls "struggling'' with lives of effortless privilege and achievement while dating gorgeous, effeminate boys who spend every waking moment in the gym, apparently. But the players are older and better, now. The supporting cast (Blythe Danner turns up, too) is more distinct, with more to work with.

Director Sanaa Hamri ("Something New'') lets the laughs land, gives her wonderful supporting players nice moments and beefs up the weakest character and weakest performer (the leggy blond Lively) with the most support. Still, despite the far too generous running time, she wasn't able to tidy up some serious loose ends in the dating department.

But "Sisterhood'' has Greece and New York, Vermont and New Haven for backdrops and four of the best young actresses of their generation going through college. If you're going to get stuck for two hours in what should have been a 90-minute formula "chick picture,'' they at least make it endurable.

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