In a summer full of boy movies, here's one for the girls. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," based on Ann Brashares' popular novel, takes us on a sweet-natured journey not to a galaxy far, far away, but to someplace just as mysterious: the first tentative steps toward adulthood, taken here by four teenage girls. And if the movie is occasionally a tad overdramatic — well, show me a teenage girl who isn't.
Bridget (Blake Lively), Lena (Alexis Bledel, who looks like a pint-sized Helena Bonham Carter), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) and Carmen (America Ferrera) are four teenage pals bound by a lifelong friendship (their moms met in a prenatal class) and a pair of jeans.
Bought in a thrift shop, these pants magically fit the girls' four very different physiques. ("There's more going on here than Lycra," one of the girls sagely observes. "There's definitely Lycra, though," murmurs another.) The four agree to share the pants over the summer, as they scatter to distant cities, and to share their adventures while wearing them.
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," with Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel, Bradley Whitford, Mike Vogel, Jenna Boyd. Directed by Ken Kwapis, from a screenplay by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler, based on the novel by Ann Brashares. 119 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality and language. Several theaters.
Lena, a quiet artist, travels to a picture-perfect Greek town for the summer and stumbles into a Romeo-and-Juliet-in-jeans situation when she falls for a boy who belongs to the wrong family. ("You must never see this boy again!" thunders her grandmother.) Athletic, 17-year-old Bridget spends the summer at soccer camp in Mexico, setting her sights on a handsome, college-age coach (Mike Vogel) and tossing her supermodel hair around a lot. Bridget's subplot, as in the book, is the most adult: she vows to seduce the hot coach, and does so. This, however, is handled so discreetly (and mostly off-camera) that young viewers may well conclude that she just kissed him.
Carmen, the articulate writer-to-be, goes to visit her divorced father in South Carolina and discovers to her horror that he has a surprise second family. And Tibby, supposedly the rebel (which, in this wholesome movie, translates to a discreet blue streak in her hair), stays home, working at the local discount store, crafting a documentary film and making friends with a toogood-for-this-world 12-year-old named Bailey (Jenna Boyd).
This is a lot of plot for one movie, but director Ken Kwapis keeps things moving, and the screenplay (by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler) gives each girl an equal time in the spotlight.
Though we rarely see them together, the four create a believable, giggly bond. Among them, Ferrera ("Real Women Have Curves") is a standout, bringing a touching honesty to her more emotional scenes. During the film's final half-hour (which features enough tears to float that cute Greek boy's boat), those of us well beyond traveling-pants age might become a tad restless. But for the most part, "The Sisterhood" is a charmer, celebrating the magic of friendship and possibility — not to mention the miracle of Lycra.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com