I haven’t read the series of Ann Brashares young adults novels these movies are based on but, from what I can understand, whereas the first movie was a rather faithful adaptation of the first book, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” questionably skips ahead to the fourth one, while still incorporating elements from the second and third volumes. If that sounds like a recipe for one big mess, well, it is.
First of all, by jumping ahead three years, this creates a nearly insurmountable storytelling discrepancy. You can tell that the filmmakers themselves are aware of this, as they clumsily go back and forth between trying to pick up right where the original left off yet being stuck with dealing with new dynamics that haven’t been properly developed, not on screen anyway. Oh, they throw in a lot of exposition to try and connect the dots, but it all feels rushed and contrived.
You can’t ask an audience to swallow all at once that the girls are almost no longer teenagers anymore, that they’re now in college, that Lena (Alexis Bledel)’s grandfather has died and her boyfriend married somebody else, that Carmen (America Ferrera)’s mother has remarried and gotten pregnant again, that Bridget (Blake Lively)’s father intentionally kept her grandmother out of her life, that Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is 10 months into a relationship with the Dragon’s Lair-playing Asian geek she made a documentary about in the first flick… Lost yet?
Worse, once all of that is tediously established and the 4 girls are once again separated for the summer, linked only by that magical pair of jeans (and even then…), each of their respective storylines is rather inconsequential. After finding her roots, her first love and herself in the first film, Lena now finds second love, then runs into her first love again and gets all confused, etc. After learning that you can’t fuck the pain away and finally coming to terms with her mom’s suicide, Bridget now does some archaeology, visits her grandma and comes to terms with her mom’s suicide, again. After breaking away from her usual cynicism and accompanying a little girl to her death, Tibby now deals with a broken condom and a stupid boyfriend. And after struggling with her parents’ divorce and the heartbreaking feeling that her father not only abandoned her mother but also her, Carmen does theatre, ooh!
Through all this, the characters don’t evolve, we barely care about them anymore and if so, only because the four actresses make the best of what little they’re offered. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” might still satisfy its target audience of undiscerning teenage girls, but the guys and/or grown-ups who were pleasantly surprised by the first film shouldn’t waste their time with this unworthy sequel.