The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/02/2005
I was about to give The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants an average rating, but then the performance by a former TV star who talked to God raised the rating up a notch…and caused me to tear up.
Four 16-year-old friends Tabitha “Tibby” Tomko-Rollins (Amber Tamblyn), Bridget Vreeland (Blake Lively), Carmen Lowell (America Ferrera), and Lena Kaligaris (Alexis Bledel) have been inseparable since even before birth. Their mothers (Sarah-Jane Redmond, Kendall Cross, Rachel Ticotin, and Jacqueline Stewart) all met in a prenatal aerobics class in their hometown of Bethesda, MD. The girls were born within a week of each other, and they grew up with their own set of personal problems (albeit to various degrees.) Tibby has a turquoise streak in her hair, a nose-ring, and an anger about nothing in particular, other than feeling like she is stuck in Bethesda while taking care of her baby sister. Bridget’s problems are a little more serious. She is this hot blonde soccer phenom who is still recovering from the suicide of her mother. As a result, she is distant emotionally from her father (Ernie Lively.) Carmen is a Latino who lives with her mother, and she is still upset that her white father Al (Bradley Whitford) left her and her mom years ago and moved to Charleston, SC. She only sees him once or twice a year. Like Tibby, Lena doesn’t have any big problems, but she is really shy and doesn’t allow anyone in often, other than her friends. Her escape is in her drawings. One day, the four friends go into a thrift shop during a shopping trip and find a pair of second-hand jeans. For some odd reason, the jeans fit perfectly on all four of them, from the small little Lena, to the average Tibby, to the tall Bridget, to the curvy Carmen. They buy the jeans and decide to form a “sisterhood” where they will share the pants for a week apiece throughout the summer. The reason they do this is that they will be going to four different locations the next day for that whole summer. Tibby will be staying home and working on her “Suckumentary” (a documentary about people with unfulfilled lives.) The other three will be going to other places. Bridget will be going to soccer camp in Cabo St. Lucas, Mexico; Carmen will be spending her summer with Al in Charleston and looking forward to playing a little tennis with him; and Lena will be traveling to Santorini, Greece, to spend time with her grandparents, Papou (George Touliatos) and Yia Yia (Maria Konstandarou.) Before they go off to their destinations, they make a set of ten rules for their sisterhood of the traveling pants. They include things like: never double cuff the pants, never pick your nose while wearing them, write to your sisters and tell them the fun you had wearing them, and the most controversial one…never let a boy take off the pants (though you may take them off yourself in his presence.) Tibby works on her documentary while working for a Walmart-like retail store called Wallman’s so that she can fund the doc. One day while being bored silly at Wallman’s, a little 12-year-old girl named Bailey Graffman (Jenna Boyd) faints for no reason near her. While recovering and being taken to the hospital, Bailey finds humor in that Tibby has a price sticker on her forehead (she had put it there while playing with the price gun.) The next day, Bailey arrives on Tibby’s door bringing over the package of the jeans, which were mistakenly delivered to her house. She notices Tibby’s video equipment and asks if she can be her assistant. Tibby says no, but the next day, Bailey arrives with Tibby’s equipment anyway at the store and butts into Tibby’s interview process of questioning slackers. While Tibby interviews subjects, like Brian McBrian (Leonardo Nam), a master Dragon’s Lair video game player, and a Wallman’s co-worker named Roberta (Beverley Elliot), Bailey interjects her own questions, so that she can show the more positive sides of their lives. Tibby finds Bailey annoying at first, but an unlikely friendship develops. In Mexico, Bridget is a determined girl on and off the soccer field in her pursuits, mainly for her pursuit of an older, college-bound soccer coach named Eric Richman (Mike Vogel.) She flirts with him constantly, which he tries to avoid, since he is too old for her. One night, Bridget sneaks out of the bunks and shows up at a bar that he is at, where she tries to dance with him. He resists again, saying that it isn’t right. Their mutual attraction becomes hard to keep away from, and it makes both of them do something that they later regret. Carmen arrives in Charleston to discover that Al is engaged to Lydia Rodman (Nancy Travis.) Lydia has two teenage kids of her own named Krista (Emily Tennant), who is a perky blonde, and Paul (Kyle Schmid), who is a quiet weird kid. Al is so busy with the upcoming wedding that he doesn’t have any time for Carmen, who never got to spend much time with him anyway before. One day while trying on a much too-tight bridesmaid dress, she runs off, hoping that her dad will come and look for her. When he doesn’t, she throws a rock through their window and buys a bus ticket home. In Greece, Lena accidentally falls off the side of the island’s dock pier while doing her sketching and lands in the water, snagging her jeans on a wire in the process. A nice local Greek boy named Kostos (Michael Rady) ends up rescuing her, and they start to form an attraction to one another. Unfortunately, Kostos is the grandson of a man with whom Papou has feuded with for years. Yia Yia warns her to stay away from that boy, but she can’t deny her feelings. She resorts to sneaking out of the house to see him. By the end of the summer, all four girls reunite having had experiences that will forever change their lives.
The ridiculous concept of the “magic pants” had me rolling my eyes at first. I was prepared to give the movie a low to average grade, which I didn’t want to do, since I love Tamblyn and Bledel for their shows “Joan of Arcadia” and “The Gilmore Girls” respectively. The movie screamed “chick flick” and resembled the goofiness of 2002’s The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It was then that I became sucked into the story of Tibby and Bailey. I don’t want to give away what happens, but it was the acting and chemistry between the two that had me misty-eyed.
In fact, the acting all around was excellent. I already knew that Tamblyn and Bledel could act, but so could the other two main leads. Ferrera is best known for her role in the movie Real Women Have Curves, and though I have not seen it myself yet, I’ve heard many good things about it. This movie is Lively’s first lead role, and she defies the stereotypical hot blonde image by actually displaying some genuine talent. The only other supporting characters that stand out are Boyd and Whitford. It is exciting to see an Oscar-caliber child star, which is what I saw in Boyd. I’m not saying that this movie will earn her an Oscar, but I noticed the same thing in her that I had previously noticed in the Oscar-nominated Haley Joel Osment and the soon-to-be-nominated-someday Dakota Fanning. Whitford has already displayed his talent in NBC’s “The West Wing,” but this movie allowed him to show off his range playing a conflicted parent. As far as the “boyfriends” went, they were okay, but they felt like human props just meant to further the story.
Two of the four stories were interesting and heartbreaking, and the other two were just serviceable, but not as good as the other two were. Tibby’s story was the best, and I’ve already gone into detail about that already. Carmen’s story was the second best, because the honest conflict between her and her dad was touching. Bridget and Lena’s stories weren’t quite as interesting. The only thing about Bridget’s story that was interesting was the moral conflict she faces near the end. Lena’s story was just another retread in the old Romeo and Juliet story. That’s too bad, since I love Bledel.
Director Ken Kwapis managed to take the hokey general plotline of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and turned it into something that fits right. Based on the first novel of a trilogy of Sisterhood novels by Ann Brashares, the movie works in a way that I could easily see spawn into a series of movies, or maybe even a TV series. I read the synopsis of the other two novels and I believe that it could be a TV show with it focusing on one girl each week. I know that I’m a guy with no kids, but I do recommend the movie for mothers to take their daughters to. You’ll be weeping like a little girl during it (or a grown-up geek like me.)
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