The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
An Improvement on the Original

We now have a pair of Pants.

The two Traveling Pants movies are based on a series of four novels by Anne Brashares. Pants 2, based on her fourth book, Forever in Blue (2007), utilizes flashbacks of events from the earlier novels—and movie one. The first film was directed by Ken Kwapis, whose credits include directing several episodes of The Office, The Bernie Mac Show, and Malcolm in the Middle. The second leg in this pair of Pants is directed by Sanaa Hamri, whose directorial career spans the spectrum, from work with Prince and Mariah Carey to episodes of Desperate Housewives.

Now, in the interest of good sportsmanship and full disclosure, I am most definitely a guy. These movies, however, are based on young chick novels—not the kind of escapism I relish. A few key characteristics: the main characters attend tiny universities, enjoy various eclectic interests, and study art or film. Their love interests are perfect physical specimens who attend and excel in Ivy League schools, selflessly helping with the family business whenever they get a break. Single dads have well kept homes. Single moms have great jobs. Everyone is upper-middle-class, and can travel to the continent of their choice at a moment’s notice, all while enjoying their selections of the best that American culture has to offer.

Sanaa Hamri, director of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

In essence, both films apparently represent what women young and old dream about. Every person, place, and thing glitters in its own perfectness (the template, I presume, of mainstream young women’s novels).

Now, to bring the guys up to speed: the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is a pact formed by four inseparable friends whose histories precede their earliest memories. When faced with their first summer vacation apart, they happen upon a pair of jeans that inexplicably fits each of them perfectly, thus the necessary remark: “They must be magic!” The quartet cleverly resolves to send the pair of jeans to each other in turn throughout the summer, ensuring that each will have the opportunity to experience the magic (as well as stay in touch).

How do I know this? After all, as I mentioned above, I am a guy, and this is not the kind of movie I would normally pick if given the choice. But since my editor assigned me to cover it, I graciously gave it my all: I rented the first movie, educating myself with the basic story and characters.

Fortunately, the picturesque foursome remained intact; likewise, despite a few variations, the filming locations changed very little. Such continuity is worth noting, since, unlike many sequels, Pants 2 is actually a continuation of the story—and a better one at that.

Both movies are structured around flashbacks and short vignettes; in Pants 2, however, shorter vignettes and considerably smoother scene transitions keeps the pace more lively, without sacrificing momentum or continuity. The Pants cast members are now three years older—three years maturing in their craft, made evident by a better, more experienced cast since the first film. Add breathtaking on-location cinematography to the mix (I particularly enjoyed the shots of beautiful, vertical Greece) and Pants 2 becomes a polished film with something for almost everyone.

Another major change: this time the director is a woman. Call me sexist, but Sanaa Hamni gets the chicks. Sorry, Mr. Kwapis—you’re a guy (like me), which pretty much prevents us from really “getting” the psyche of the target audience convincingly. The original enjoyed some success, but I expect the sequel will outdo the first—it is simply the better film. There are precious few sequels about which that can be said.

Pants 2 will allow young girls the chance to think about the consequences of their actions. At the risk of revealing too much about the plot, I’ll just outline a few of the valuable lessons: Lena finds that true love and faithfulness are possible; Bee discovers that love and protection are not always obvious, and that you never can guess a person’s true motives; Carmen discovers a talent and passion she thought was reserved for everyone else; hard-hearted Tibby realizes it’s “not all about her.” If Pants can be understood as the foundation of the story, Pants 2 is the soul and heart of the characters.

The actual story of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is told well enough that a significant portion of the male population might not merely tolerate it, but possibly enjoy it—and it is, without a doubt, an acceptable and appropriate date movie. How do I know this? Well, anecdotally, my wife and I both rolled our eyes through the first Pants movie; in the second, only I did. My wife did the “Oooh! Ahhh!” thing, echoing the coos of the young women close by.

So take a hint from this old married man. If you want to impress your date, take her to see Traveling Pants 2. Pay attention, too, so you can talk about the movie later. I know young men don’t often think about what movie their ladies would like to see; but if you take your date to this one, Mr. Sensitivity, you may launch your relationship into new and stronger territory. And you might even enjoy the movie well enough to actually grunt some meaningful dialogue afterward.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is rated PG-13, in order to attract more moviegoers. I see no other reason for the rating since the first movie was more deserving of a PG-13 but was PG. Here, the official reason given is “mature material and sensuality.”

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a promotional screening of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.