At one point in the second installment of the stories surrounding girls who have pants and will travel, an exasperated Carmen (America Ferrera) says something like, "Can we just please focus on the pants?!" And yet, that's the thing I find most refreshing about this sequel: there's not really a focus on the pants. The fact that Carmen has to remind her friends to think about the pants is a good sign in this case; the focus should be on these girls and their friendships, not two tubes of faded, magic denim. And as the girls have grown older and more mature, in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 they're centering on the important stuff: their relationships, their goals, finding themselves and supporting each other.
Like the first movie, this one consists of four separate storylines that occasionally intersect. When we are reintroduced to the four friends, they're all in college: Tibby's (Amber Tamblyn) making movies at NYU, Carmen is at Yale and does backstage work at Yale's School of Drama, and Lena (Alexis Bledel) is painting (and cavorting with the insanely hot model Leo, played by Jesse Williams) at Rhode Island School of Design. Bridget (Blake Lively) doesn't yet know her major, but she decides to try her hand at archeology for the time being. After spending the year at their respective schools, Carmen, in particular, is anxious to have some good sisterhood time together over the Summer — only to find out the other three won't be in town at all. So, Carmen decides to do her own thing and goes to work backstage at a theater in Vermont.
For more of my take on the movie, read more.
Each of the girls struggles with various issues: romantic insecurities, feeling left out of or misunderstood by their families, exploring new career paths, learning that they're good at stuff they never knew they could do, etc. The main challenge facing the sisterhood now is that the four are scattered and seem to be growing apart — until they come together on a common mission having to do with Lena's boy troubles. Everything wraps up well, but not in a ridiculously far-fetched fairy-tale way.
Ferrera and Tamblyn completely carry the film, acting-wise, each possessing a strong presence onscreen, clear motivations and fantastic comedic timing. Lively is very pretty and easily pulls off the switching back and forth between Sad Face and perky all-American girl. Bledel is. . . also pretty. Her range is so limited, however, that many of her scenes are simply devoid of anything interesting. Then again, with her storyline we often have either the gorgeous Greek setting or Jesse Williams to stare at.
Of course the movie is heartwarming and sweet, but there's a surprising lack of schmaltz to it, and each of the four stories is solidly written and satisfying to watch. It's not particularly predictable nor is it too tidy. Most refreshing, I think, is the fact that these girls have ambitions and self-reflective moments that extend beyond just catching a guy (in fact, one of the stories doesn't even include a guy at all, which is an awesome change of pace). The storylines make sense for the characters, and the success or failure of their lives is not completely hinging on a guy, unlike many other female-centric movies. In keeping with what I liked about the first movie, the girls are not portrayed as weak, idiotic, or totally lost without a man. There are some real, heavyweight issues going on here, along with some good one-liners and funny deadpanning on Tamblyn's part. This is one sequel that completely works — possibly even better than the original. But even if you don't find that to be true, you're still in for a fun, compelling and totally girl-positive flick.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.