The Traveling Pants series—first the books, and now the second movie—are kind of a Sex and the City for the early teen set. Four girls, four personalities, and their magical clothes. The difference is the Manhattan gang fetishizes Manolo Blahniks, while these Bethesda girls share a pair of jeans that somehow manage to fit all of them perfectly. The girls—shy Lena (Alexis Bledel, outgoing and athletic Bridget (Blake Lively), quirky Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) and scholarly Carmen (America Ferrera) are now two years older than the first movie and are finishing up their first year of college. When the summer begins, they gather together for the ritual of the pants: Each girl takes them on her travels for a week, then mails them to the next girl in the rotation. However, the threads (ha! Get it?) that bind the group together are beginning to fray. Different paths in life are making it difficult for them to stay as close as they once were, and communication is breaking down. Can the pants save them?
Actually, not really. As the pants travel from New York to Vermont to Turkey to Rhode Island, they illustrate how far the young women—for that’s what they are now—have drifted from one another. Eventually, though, pants power prevails.
The movie, directed by Sanaa Hamri, is a solid picture. It’s nice to see a movie targeted towards women and girls that isn’t consumer-driven (hey, the pants were bought at a secondhand store, so they don’t count), doesn’t patronize or insult its audience, and doesn’t have Getting a Boy as its major target (though boys do figure prominently, they’re not the end-all be-all of the story or the girls’ lives.) The film is less funny and emotionally resonant than the first, perhaps because the strongest performer—Ferrera—is given less to do, while the weaker Bledel and Lively get the major revelations. All the girls learn lessons: be confident in yourself, love people and let them love you, sometimes adults have problems that can’t be really solved, especially by children. The audience learns that Greece is pretty.
Because the girls are older, their problems and situations are, too. Two characters lose their virginities (one encounter is merely implied, while one is overtly stated, although not explicitly shown), with one on the bum end of a broken condom (although there’s a pregnancy scare, it’s a false alarm.) One character drinks, although we can assume she’s underage. There’s no cursing, although there’s an implied s-word when one girl takes a spill off a donkey. During Lena’s figure-drawing class there’s a nude male model, although you see no more than you would in a Calvin Klein ad.
In short, Traveling Pants is a good story with good performances that illustrates the power (and problems) of friendship with much more nuance and heart than might be expected.
Previews included The Duchess (which has a whole lot of smoochin’ and some bare skin), The Women (which has the b-word in the preview), and Nights in Rodanthe (which, frankly, just looks nauseating and we won’t be reviewing it because I bet it’s going to be terrible).
By Kristen Page-Kirby