“It was the pants’ destiny to find us.”
This ridiculous early bit of narration made me feel even more embarrassed than I already was. I’m clearly not the target audience for this movie, a fact brutally confirmed by how the only other people at the half-empty matinee I attended were three or four little groups of giggling schoolgirls who, in a bold act of defiance, all had their legs stretched over the seats in front of them. Thank God for Automated Box Office – I don’t know if I could have endured the beguiled stare of an AMC minimum wage register-jockey when I asked for a ticket to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Sir, are you sure you don’t want to see Star Wars again instead?
No, I wanted to see the Pants! And you know what? Good for me! At the risk of being permanently banned from the Movie Geek High Order, I’ll even go as far as saying that I loved the Pants even more than the Sith. One might think that all the hot asses clouded my judgement but, while I did appreciate them hot asses a great deal, I also genuinely enjoyed the film as a feel-good tearjerker. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, adapted from the Ann Brashares bestseller of the same name, could be described as the anti-Mean Girls. The girls we meet here don’t have a mean bone in their bodies; they’re sweeter than a Krispy Kreme doughnut dipped in fudge and sprinkled with Froot Loops! This is a thoroughly wholesome picture not unlike those Nicholas Sparks flicks – there’s even someone who totally Walk-to-Remembers at the end.
The story revolves around four best friends who, just before being separated for the summer, find a pair of thrift store jeans that magically fits each of their asses: natural born leader and star soccer player Bridget (Blake Lively)’s firmly toned can, timid artist Lena (Alexis Bledel)’s little white butt, punky anticonformist amateur filmmaker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn)’s bony bum, even straight-A’s Puerto Rican student Carmen (America Ferrera)’s big round booty! They decide to share the pants, each keeping them one week then sending it to another. This is still kinda ridiculous, but it’s only an excuse to hop between the stories… And for the Dear Penthouse-ready scene in the thrift store where the girls strip to their panties and slap each other’s behinds while they’re trying on the jeans.
It’s kinda unfair, but the hottest girls (Bridget and Lena) get to go to hot locations (respectively Mexico and Greece) and fall in love with hot dudes, while the plainer friends are stuck in the American suburbs having family problems and, in the case of Tibby, working at Wal Mart, er, Wallmans (subtle switcheroo, guys). Tibby also gets to make a documentary (“It’s an ode to life’s quiet desperation”), and she begrudgingly allows a pain in the (wise)ass kid (Jenna Boyd) to be her assistant, which surprisingly leads to the movie’s best scenes. The Carmen subplot might be the least fun, but its resolution is touching.
Ken Kwapis, who previously directed Big Bird in “Follow that Bird” and an orangutan in “Dunston Checks In”, does a surprisingly good job at handling four different storylines and four lead actresses. The performances are all top notch and the transitions between each adventure are slick. I could list plenty of memorable moments where Kwapis really knocks it out of the park, even if he’s working with clichés, but I’ll restrain myself to just one. We’ve seen the last-minute run to the departing boat/plane/whatever, “I thought I’d never see you again” scene countless times, but the one in “Pants”, perfectly set to Rachael Yamagata’s Be Be Your Love, is the best of its kind since Reese Witherspoon went up that escalator and saw Ryan Philippe in Cruel Intentions.
So there you have it, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” doesn’t reinvent the chick flick, but it’s one of the greatest examples of the genre I’ve ever seen. And if I occasionally sounded like a macho pig through this review, you should know that while I watched the film, I actually spent more time with tears in my eyes than with a tent in my traveling pants.