The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

(2008) ** 1/2 Pg-13
117 min. Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution. Director: Sanaa Hamri. Cast: America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively, Jesse Williams.

/content/films/3166/2.jpgThree years ago, a small-ish ensemble comedy-drama starring four young women proved surprisingly successful creatively and financially. Leading ladies Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, and Alexis Bledel all return to share the pants in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, again inspired by the novels by Ann Brashares. If the bloom isn’t quite off the rose, it does begin to fade a bit in this sequel, which lacks the first film's element of pleasant surprise. Still, Tamblyn is very funny and the rest solid in a film that’s essentially on par with the original.

Three years on from the events of the first film, Tamblyn's Tibby is an NYU Film student working on a screenplay and deciding what she wants out of a relationship with the boyfriend (Leonardo Nam) that's very into her; further developments lead her to wonder what she wants out of life in general. Carmen (Ferrera) becomes peeved when her friends prove less excited about their long-held tradition of passing around a pair of jeans they superstitiously believe to have good fortune (because they magically flatter all four); she trundles off from the Yale School of Drama to a summer stock company in Vermont, where a cute Brit (Tom Wisdom) pushes her from stage management to stardom as a withering director (Kyle MacLachlan) plays along.

Lena (Bledel) enjoys a scholarship at the Rhode Island School of Design while sorting out feelings for old boyfriends Kostos (Michael Rady)—it's complicated—and new boyfriend Leo (Jesse Williams), a shapely figure model who pulls off his shirt and drops trou at their first meeting in art class. Meanwhile, Bridget (Lively) finally sorts out her feelings about her bipolar mother, who committed suicide. It's a three-stage process of closure, begun on Shoreh Agdashloo's archaeological dig in Turkey, continued at the home of her long-unseen Grandma (Blythe Danner), and wrapped up at home with Dad (Ernie Lively, Bridget's real father).

The latter casting underscores the film's family feel and good-natured good intentions. The producers wisely retain screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler, who follows the proven formula: a story of friendship and familial support as much as a romantic comedy cut into four big slices (For the record, director Sanaa Hamri replaces Ken Kwapis). Chandler happily uses Carmen's theatrical setting for revealing Shakesperean allusions (Carmen winds up playing Perdita in The Winter's Tale), and archaeology as a metaphor for psychological, philosophical, and geneological self-examination. Though the ending stretches credibility in its globe-hopping reunion of the girls, the final resolution ends the sequel (and probably the series of films) on a note of integrity.

Plus, girls, it has, y'know, hot guys. If the preview crowd with which I saw the film is any indication, Pants 2 plays its target audience of young women like a violin (some of their dates loudly cracked wise, but clearly for attention more than malice). You may, like me, feel somewhat less forgiving of romance-novel melodrama and sundry contrivances than you did the first time around, but anyone must concede the film provides a strong showcase for four deserving actresses and healthy lessons for an underserved audience of girls and young women. If you’re in the mood for "Sex and the City, Jr.", complete with love, lust, commitment issues, and female bonding, this one’s for you.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 2

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 11/18/2008

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner sends home The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 on Blu-ray (and DVD) with a gorgeous hi-def transfer that does full justice to the film's beautiful location work and colorful fashion. It's a great choice for a Blu-ray title, in a transfer that can only be described as flawless: razor-sharp and accurate in every vibrant hue. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack gives the film every opportunity to impress aurally, as well, and while the film doesn't have a hugely dynamic soundtrack, the dialogue and music could hardly sound any better than they do here.

In bonus features, "Go Jump Off A Cliff" (4:25, HD) documents the story behind the scene with the four stars leaping off a rock in Santorini, Greece, with comments from Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, director Sanaa Hamri, and producers Debra Martin Chase, Denise Di Novi and Kira Davis. To hear the stars tell it, the scene was the result of an encounter with teenage male fans of the film. Aside from that anecdote, the rest of the interviews are rather generic, and supplemented extensively with clips from the film.

Still generic but a bit more fun is a "Gag Reel" (4:05, HD). "Additional Scenes, Each with an Introduction by Sanaa Hamri" (8:29) is truth in advertising, offering four short sequences trimmed from the film. A second disc includes access to a Digital Copy of the film, the better for portable playback.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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