I forget which stand-up comic once said that he would never see a movie that had "traveling pants" in the title. Whoever it was, I feel his pain. Having recently sat through "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," I am here to say that it doesn't measure up to "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Which is sort of like saying "Rocky V" wasn't as good as "Rocky IV." Sort of.
Based, as was the first film, on the "Sisterhood" novels of Ann Brashares – no, I have not read them – "Pants 2" boasts the same sporty cast from three years ago. It's nice to see that sisterhood works in real life, too – no contract hold-outs. Maybe the specter of "Sex and the City" acted as a goad. Why should that movie be the only one to mine the chick-flick motherlode?
In case you're not up on "Pants" lore, here's a mini-tutorial. In the first film, the four fast friends from childhood found a pair of dungarees that magically fit all of them despite their varying shapes and sizes and diets and binges. As a way of staying in touch, the girls FedExed the pants back and forth.
In "Pants 2," one of the girls discovers she may be pregnant – no alterations, please! – and the FedExing continues. All four have moved on: Lena (Alexis Bledel) is attending the Rhode Island School of Design, Bridget (Blake Lively) plays soccer at Brown; Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is studying at the NYU film school, where, no doubt, she is learning to make movies completely unlike "Pants 2." Carmen (America Ferrera), whose life journey is easily the most interesting among the quartet, is toiling backstage at the Yale School of Drama. Instead of lugging costumes around she'd rather be acting. But she's just so shy, a liability in the performing profession.
Carmen tries to engineer a summer reunion, but Tibby is in Manhattan for summer school, Bridget is on an archaeological dig in Turkey, and Lena is enrolled in a life drawing class, where she falls for the male model (Jesse Williams) while still in thrall to her Greek boyfriend Kostos (Michael Rady), (who has inopportunely gotten married without informing her).
With her friends scattered – in more ways than one – Carmen accepts an invitation to a Vermont theater camp, accompanied by a Yale classmate (Rachel Nichols), whose porcelain prettiness is a dead giveaway that she is not to be trusted. No sisterhood for her. No pants, either. (She's more of a skirts person).
The only one of these criss-crossing plots with any compelling interest is Carmen's. This is mainly because she ends up winning the part of Perdita in a production of "The Winter's Tale" and so we occasionally get to hear Shakespeare's dialogue, which is a full stratosphere above the lines supplied by screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler. Also, Ferrera is charming, as always. She even makes a creditable Perdita.
The only genuine moments of emotion come not from the lead actresses but from that great trouper Blythe Danner, playing Bridget's estranged grandmother. It's only a cameo, but in a few deft strokes she brings this embittered woman to life. I am always in awe of actors who give it their all even when the giving is not worth the all. I have long maintained that Danner is one of the three or four greatest actresses in America. If you don't feel comfortable seeing her in "Pants 2," I must remind you that her movie appearances, alas, are few. Support "Pants 2." Maybe they'll bring her back for "Pants 3." Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for mature material and sensuality.)