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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is based on the book by the same name. Friendship, family, acceptance, loyalty, and a pair of pants hold together the different summer experiences of four close high school friends. The teen characters deal with difficult issues, including a parent's suicide, the disease and death of a close friend, a father's remarriage, seduction, and first-time sex (this last is indicated rather than depicted explicitly). The film includes tense family scenes, with a focus on reconciliation after angry flare-ups. Characters use some mild profanity (including "suck" and "ass"), and they drink. The girls demonstrate self-sacrifice, empathy, and understanding as they support each other through difficult experiences.
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What's the story?
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS follows four high school girlfriends who separate for the summer and vow to keep in touch by way of a pair of blue jeans that magically fits all their different body sizes perfectly. They mail the jeans to one another, along with letters to keep up with what's happening in each other's lives. Lena (Alexis Bledel) is shy and quiet, on her way to Greece to visit relatives; aspiring documentary-maker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) resents being stuck working at a local Wal-Mart-type store; golden girl Bridget (Blake Lively) is dealing with her mom's suicide and distant father as she heads to soccer camp in Mexico; and young writer Carmen (America Ferrera) goes to North Carolina to visit with her long-absent father, Al (Bradley Whitford), who announces he's about to marry Lydia (Nancy Travis), whose two blond teens seem complete opposites of Carmen. During their vacations, they explore their emerging senses of independence, while figuring out how to maintain relationships with their families and each other, and each girl learns a valuable life lesson.
Is it any good?
Based on Ann Brashares' novel of the same name, this movie is sometimes sentimental and ultimately sensible, and it's respectful of its strong girl characters and its audience. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants introduces its protagonists as general types but quickly grants them space to become interesting and complicated. The movie is about learning to appreciate what's in front of you as well as new experiences. But their most important lesson has to do with their mutual support and affection, which lasts over time.
Where too many movies treat a girl's losing her virginity as a singularly traumatic or excessively romantic event, this one shows it as a difficult event from which she learns, recovers, and moves on. If its resolutions are at times too neat, the movie also is refreshingly frank, allowing the girls to be confused, perceptive, foolish, mad, and generous -- just like girls can be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants's depiction of loyalty and loss, especially as each of the girls loses something precious but also gains experience and faith in herself and her best friends. How do you support your friends when they feel sad or angry?
How can you be mad at someone but also, at the same time, still love him or her? How can loss also be an occasion for learning, sharing, and emotional maturation?
How does the movie compare to the book? Do the characters appear the way you imagined?
The girls make some mistakes but ultimately learn from them. Do you consider them role models? Which character did you identify with most?
- In theaters: June 1, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: October 11, 2005
- Cast: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera
- Director: Ken Kwapis
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some sensuality and language
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