DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, THE (director: Ken Kwapis; screenwriters: Delia Ephron/Elizabeth Chandler/based on the novel by Ann Brashares; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Kathryn Himoff; music: Cliff Eidelman; cast: Amber Tamblyn (Tibby), America Ferrara (Carmen), Blake Lively (Bridget), Alexis Bledel (Lena), Bradley Whitford (Al), Nancy Travis (Lydia Rodman), Rachel Ticotin (Carmen's Mother), Jenna Boyd (Bailey), Mike Vogel (Eric), Michael Rady (Kostas), Leonardo Nam (Brian McBrian), Maria Konstandarou (Yia Yia); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Debra Martin Chase/Denise Di Novi/Broderick Johnson/Andrew A. Kosove; Warner Brothers; 2005)

 
"A coming-of-age chick flick filled with enough charm to fill a soccer stadium or two."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A coming-of-age chick flick filled with enough charm to fill a soccer stadium or two, but also able to string together some involving dramatic moments in regards to first love, inter-racial families, coping with the death of a loved one, and first-time sex. It was made for the teenage girl demographic (somewhere around 12-to-20 age range), but surprisingly still has legs to reach as far away as to an out of the demographic curmudgeon like myself who usually hates these simplistic feel-good clichéd films. It's based on the 2001 bestseller novel by Ann Brashares, and is written by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler. Ken Kwapis ("He Said, She Said") helms the pic in a cheery manner and never lets it get too cute, but stubs his toe with a manipulative deathbed scene and not doing enough with the serious challenges the girls are faced with. 

It centers around the friendship of four High School girls from Bethesda, Maryland, whose moms exercised together in a prenatal class before giving birth at around the same time, and therefore the girls bonded even before they were born. The diverse girls are Carmen (America Ferrera, Real Women Have Curves), Bridget (Blake Lively, newcomer), Lena (Alexis Bledel, TV's "The Gilmore Girls"), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn, TV's "Joan of Arcadia"). While shopping together at a thrift shop, they buy a pair of secondhand dungarees that mysteriously fits all of them, even though they are all of different sizes. Since they are separating for the first time in their lives this summer vacation, they make a pledge to each wear the jeans for a week and pass it on via FedEx so each girl will have a chance to see if they are truly magical pants that will bring them luck while they continue keeping in touch with each other by also enclosing a letter. 

Lena is the frightened, timid, artistic one who is going to spend the summer on a small Greek island with her grandparents, and who will run into an old family feud while falling in love with a handsome Greek fisherman attending college (Michael Rady); Tibby is the sullen rebel who is an aspiring filmmaker stuck at home and working at a local department store similar to Wal-Mart, but still finding time to shoot a cinéma vérité documentary (she calls it a "suckumentary") on her hometown losers--which leads her to meet a pesty but lively 12-year-old dying from leukemia (Jenna Boyd), who will teach her about experiencing the simple joys of life; Bridget is the aggressive, sex-crazed, lanky, blonde, jock going to soccer camp in Mexico, where she will fall for the hunky college-aged coach (Mike Vogel) but feel terrible after having sex with him; and Carmen is the wannabe writer who is Puerto Rican and chubby, and is visiting her divorced Wasp father (Bradley Whitford) in South Carolina for the summer. She will have a temper tantrum over learning dad is going back to his Wasp roots to start a new family without informing her and is self-conscious that she's the only one who is not blonde in that household. 

The girls test out their womanhood through their summer adventures and personal breakthroughs. Unfortunately, these very real problems raised from love to racial/culture to death issues were summarily brushed off with easily arrived at pat answers that seemed artificial. What saved the day was the snappy dialogue and natural acting by the ensemble cast.

REVIEWED ON 6/3/2005        GRADE: B -

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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