Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

A funny thing happened on the way to the theaters - a movie that by all means looks like another in a long string of teenage failures turned out good. In fact, it turned out pretty good. But take a look closer, and everything seems to make sense. Unlike those other films, this isn't a movie about finding a date to the prom, being popular, or winning the big game. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, based on the wildly popular novel by Ann Brashares, is about real issues. Frighteningly real issues like suicide, divorce, death, and blossoming sexuality. Anchoring the film are good performances from four very talented young actors, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, and Blake Lively.

The story centers around four lifelong friends facing a summer apart for the first time. They find a 'magical' pair of pants that fits all of them perfectly, and decide that each person will wear it for a week, then mail it to another friend. Shy and withdrawn Lena (Bledel, Sin City, Bride & Prejudice) is going to Greece to be with her grandparents. While there, she meets the Kostas (Michael Rady), who is very handsome, and happens to be on the other side of a feud with her family. Carmen (Ferrera, Real Women Have Curves, Lords of Dogtown) is going to Virginia to spend the summer with her father (Bradley Whitford, Kate & Leopold, Bicentennial Man). When she finds out that he is engaged to a woman with two grown children, she feels extremely angry and abandoned. Outgoing Bridget (Lively, Sandman) is off to Mexico for a soccer camp, and sets her eyes on camp counselor Eric (Mike Vogel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Grind).

The only person staying at home is Tibby (Tamblyn, The Ring, Live Nude Girls). She is bitter and has a dead-end summer job at a department store. She is also making a documentary about losers when she meets Bailey (Jenna Boyd, The Missing, Dickie Roberts), an annoying little girl who will not leave her side. Each of the four girls (whether she knows it or not) is dealing with a very serious personal issue, and over the course of the movie, the pants, the people they meet, and their friendship with each other will help them learn an important life lesson. Director Ken Kwapis (The Beautician and the Beast, Dunston Checks In) does a great job of keeping an even dramatic tone for Sisterhood. He does not overplay the emotions, and does not condescend to the young women who are fans of the books. The script (adapted by Delia Ephron, Hanging Up, You've Got Mail) is not afraid to confront issues in an intelligent manner.

The rapport between the four stars also feels real. When they are all together (not often, unfortunately), they seem like real friends. Bledel, Ferrera, and Tamblyn are probably some of the most talented young women working in film today (no offense to Lively, who doesn't have much experience yet), and its great seeing them choose meaty material that is worthy of their skills. Ferrera and Tamblyn in particular have some extremely strong emotional moments. Kwapis switches quickly between all four stories, but it never feels forced. He spends just enough time with each girl to move her story forward without causing people to wonder what the other three are up to. Above all, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is not just a movie for young women. Good acting and a smart script help it transcend its core audience. Mediocre movies shouldn't be for anybody. Everybody should be able to enjoy a good one.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality, and language.

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