The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
February 5, 2006
Ya-Ya! Oh, wait. Wrong movie. It’s true, the comparisons between The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002) are unavoidable. Think of the former as a teen version of the latter. Both examine the trials and tribulations of a close-knit group of women who are there for each other through good times and bad (and other cliches). Yes, this movie follows in the proud tradition of Steel Magnolias (1989) and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991).
In The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the glue that keeps these girls together is a pair of jeans that they can magically wear comfortably despite their different body types. They’ve been friends right out of the womb because their mothers were friends while in labour. Tibby (Tamblyn) is the rebel, stuck at home for the summer and working at a Wal-Mart-style department store while making a documentary (or suckumentary as she likes to call it) in her spare time. Carmen (Ferrera) is the smart one, a writer who is spending the summer with her father (Whitford) in South Carolina who is about to get remarried to a lady (Travis) who looks like a glossy Stepford Wife. Lena (Bledel) is the nice girl who always plays it safe and is staying with relatives in Greece for the summer. Finally, Bridget (Lively) is a good-looking blond girl who goes to Mexico for soccer camp and before you can say Bend It Like Beckham (2002) she has the hots for one her young coaches.
Its summer and they all are off on their own adventures but make a pact that each one of them will wear the jeans for a week and then pass it on to the next girl. Pretty soon, each girl is faced with her own conflict. Carmen does not like her father’s fiancée, Lena meets a boy whose family are enemies with her relatives, Tibby meets a kid (Boyd) who nags her to help work on the suckumentary but is also harboring an awful secret, and Bridget tries to woo her soccer hottie.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a coming of age tale featuring these young women. Three of the four characters are easily relatable because the actresses who play them have a certain cache: Amber Tamblyn is from the now defunct Joan of Arcadia TV show, Alexis Bledel from The Gilmore Girls and America Ferrera starred in the excellent independent film, Real Women Have Curves (2002). However, Blake Lively is the unknown and as a result her subplot initially comes off as a little bland and not nearly as interesting as the others because she seems too perfect to empathize with. That being said, the four leads are well-cast and have a genuine chemistry with each other.
It felt like the filmmakers were trying too hard with the Ya-Ya Sisterhood movie, everything felt a little forced but Traveling Pants avoids this by establishing a more natural rhythm right from the get-go and features more engaging and likable characters. Granted, the film follows a fairly predictable arc but does so in an easy-going and enjoyable way. Traveling Pants has a timeless quality with dialogue that is refreshingly free of contemporary slang and refuses to rely heavily on a hip soundtrack that would date it instantly. The settings lend to the timeless flavour – there is the classic beauty of Greece and Mexico and the nondescript suburbia of South Carolina and Maryland. It’s as if James L. Brooks directed a teenage hybrid of Steel Magnolias and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It hits all the right moments—funny bits, romantic scenes, drama and even tragedy—that are handled with a deft touch by director Ken Kwapis. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants shows up all those Hilary Duff-Lindsay Lohan movies for what they really are: forgettable, meaningless fluff, while instead opting for a smart, entertaining alternative.
“Fun on the Set” features footage of the four leads bonding on the set. They speak admiringly of each other and seem to get along in front of and behind the camera.
“Suckumentary” allows us to see the finished documentary that Tibby was working on in the movie. Her trademark sarcasm comes through in this amusing look at the bored residents of her community.
Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn reunite for a video commentary that allows you to watch them comment on their favourite scenes from the movie. Blake Lively briefly joins them via cell phone but that’s about it. They laugh and talk about what going on during a given scene in this enjoyable extra. It’s a shame that they didn’t do a complete commentary for the entire movie.
“A Conversation with Ann Brashares” is a nine minute interview with the author of the book that the film is based on. She talks about where she got the idea for the magical jeans and how she wrote the book in only three weeks! She was tired of the cliché of the backstabbing teen and wanted to show the close friendships that do occur between girls. She comes off as a smart, thoughtful person and this makes you want to read the book.
There are seven minutes of deleted scene with optional commentary by director Ken Kwapis. There is a nice scene between Lena and her grandfather. Kwapis explains that he wanted Bledel to resemble a silent film star with less dialogue and more emphasis on body language. He does a good job explaining the intentions of this footage and why it was cut.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.