THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 119 minutes
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It may surprise you to learn that I never read the acclaimed novel upon which “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is based. My tastes have always run to more adult, male-oriented fare like Cracked and the Hardy Boys. Did I go into the film with a different set of expectations? Quite probably. Is this a movie I would take it upon myself to check out were it not demanded of me by the malevolent organ grinders who run Film Threat? Absolutely not. Is “Sisterhood” a surprisingly enjoyable experience poised to be one of the summer’s sleeper hits? Yes, indeed.

The Sisterhood in question consists of four high school archetypes: Tibby, the artiste (Amber Tamblyn); Lena, the shy one (Alexis Bledel); Bridget, the jock (Blake Lively); and Carmen, the chubby Latina (America Ferrera). All four are poised to spend the summer apart, which would sound like a real bummer, except for the appearance of a pair of jeans (watch for a spike in Levis sales in the coming months) that magically fits all four girls perfectly. The group create a set of rules for the wearing of the pants (each girl gets them for a week, they can never be washed (?)), and agree to send the pants around the globe to each other as they all experience their various adventures.

(Just to get it out of the way, there will never be a sequel to this film called “Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants.” Most of us have reservations about wearing another guy’s t-shirt, much less his crusty jeans. So unless they establish up front that these pants are constructed from some sort of frictionless material that repels dirt, or make a movie like “Brotherhood of the Wayward Rain Slicker,” forget about it.)

Of the four, Tibby is the only one who stays in town. As aspiring filmmaker, she’s making a documentary about the burnouts who work at her local Wal-Mart style store, and doing a pretty piss-poor job of it. That is, until she meets Bailey (Jenna Boyd), a precocious 10 year-old harboring a…dark secret. Bridget goes to Mexico for soccer camp and falls for one of the coaches, while Lena travels to Greece to spend the summer with her mother’s family of boisterous stereotypes. Carmen is going to stay with her estranged father in South Carolina. Little does she know that dear old Dad (Bradley Whitford, continuing his long-standing tradition of playing pricks) is shacked up with his new family and planning on getting married in a few months.

The rest of this review will be in question form. How you answer these will go a long way toward determining if you possess the requisite mindset to enjoy “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” or if you are a joyless, cynical bastard with a heart black as ebon.

– Can Carmen learn to accept her father’s new WASP family?

– Will Bridget find love with the hunky college student/coach? Will Lena find love with the hunky Greek fisherman? (Hint: The answer to both questions is not “yes”)

– Does Tibby befriend the pesky Girl With A Secret and learn to respect her fellow man?

– Are audiences capable of overlooking the fact that Blake and Lena’s love interests are easily upper classmen in college, while the girls themselves are, at most, 17?

– Won’t anyone mention the undeniable funk clinging to a pair of jeans that have traveled around the world twice, been dunked in salt water, and worn after…certain amorous activities?

– Will Carmen’s dad undo decades of assholery with one simple act of decency? Will she buy it?

– Is there a boyfriend anywhere who won’t sit through this on the off chance that they’ll get some action afterwards?

There are few films that rigidly adhere to the tenets of the “chick movie” as well as “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” but there are some good performances here (Ferrerra especially, with Tamblyn and Bledel essentially playing variations of their TV roles), great locations, and some refreshingly adult storytelling. This isn’t “Thirteen,” but it isn’t “Now and Then” either. “Sisterhood” may not be much more than a story about girlfriends growing up, and it’s not going to score any points for edginess, but it’s entertaining in a low-key, non-threatening kind of way.

And in a summer that’s already given us Darth Vader screaming “Noooooo!”, and will soon see a Scientologist saving the earth from non-L. Ron Hubbard related aliens and the big screen return of Batman, we could all use a breather.

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Posted on June 2, 2005 in Reviews by
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