THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2, directed by Sanaa Hamri, written by Elizabeth Chandler, 117 minutes, rated PG-13.
Following its 2005 predecessor, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” its sequel, “The Sister of the Traveling Pants 2,” echoes Ann Brashare’s best-selling novels in that it’s not really about pants at all. They’re just a hook for something deeper amid a story that, this time out, fittingly feels as familiar as a favorite pair of jeans.
Structurally, little has changed. The series remains a coming-of-age story about four young women going through their share of growing pains, with the pants in question, a worn pair of Levis, serving as a catalyst that connects their adventures over the course of an eventful summer, which they spend apart. The major difference here is that each now is in college and they have a whole host of other issues to deal with, not the least of which is boys. And sex.
For tall, athletic Bridget (Blake Lively), a soccer player at Brown University, the ramifications of her mother’s suicide still are being felt. Helping her work through those issues are two people – a shrewd professor (Shohreh Aghdashloo) she bonds with during an archaeological dig in Turkey, and her feisty grandmother, nicely played by a game Blythe Danner.
Shy, waifish Lena (Alexis Bledel) is now studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she meets a young man (Jesse Williams) who exposes himself to her in more ways than one, and who might just be enough to help her get over Kostos (Michael Rady), the Greek dreamboat her grandmother warned her about in the first movie.
For Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), a sensitive Goth punk whose dark mood would turn these blue jeans black if she weren’t so pleased by how they fit her, life after her first year at NYU is spent working at a video store. Her story involves her tumultuous relationship with Brian (Leonardo Nam), as well as her growing realization that she has a gift behind the business end of a movie camera.
Finally, there’s the film’s true star, Carmen (America Ferrera, terrific), the Rubenesque narrator of the story, on whom these jeans seem most unlikely. Still, there they are, riding low on her waist and complementing her bold curves regardless of the odds stacked against them. Her story involves time spent in Vermont, where the lights of the stage beckon, a gift for acting emerges, and her jealous frenemy, Julia (Rachel Nichols), tries to undo her chances at finding love with Ian (Tom Wisdom).
What unfolds is a big story, one filled with so many life lessons and tears, you expect it to come apart at the seams. But it doesn’t. As directed by Sanaa Hamri from Elizabeth Chandler’s script, the film mines all of the ensuing potholes and pitfalls with a quick pace and without a trace of cynicism.
Earnest and well acted, the movie slavishly serves its target audience of tween girls, but unlike so many recent movies geared for that crowd, it at least sees its intended audience as real people with real problems and issues. Particularly good is Ferrera, but the other actresses also are memorable, as is this: That a movie about pants features a story that works hard to skirt formula is an irony worth savoring.
On DVD and Blu-ray disc:
The first season of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray disc, and there’s good reason to look forward to it.
Given the popularity of its cinematic pedigree, there was every reason to believe that the series only arrived on scene to cash in, but that’s not the case. The series successfully builds on the three previous “Terminator” movies to tell the familiar tale of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey, excellent) and her fight to keep her son alive so he can save the future.
The show gets off to a rousing start, midway through it stumbles as the pace slows, but then it finds its way, with the aggressive action lifting its terrific final run of shows.
It’s a war of another sort that’s at hand in the BBC’s “Sensitive Skin: Seasons 1 and 2,” in which Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”) scores in a major way as Davina Jackson, a glamorous, 60-year-old Brit whose son is just out of the house and who now, along with her husband, Al (Denis Lawson), can enjoy the promise of a satisfying life.
Or can they? They’ve certainly worked hard enough for it. The question is whether all that work came a shade too late. And if it did, what does achieving a satisfying life mean for Davina and Al at 60?
In this beautifully written show, which is driven by a dark wit, superb dialogue and the sting of social commentary, it means fighting the inevitable – aging, the idea that they’re becoming irrelevant in the workplace, the fact that they’re long past their prime, and the unwanted truth that death’s reach is closer than either wants to admit.
Grades: “Terminator”: B+; “Sensitive Skin”: A-
WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, video podcasts, iTunes portal and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.