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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is a winning (if unsurprising) sequel to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It's sure to appeal to teens and older tweens who are fans of both the books it's based on and the four stars, who are veterans of TV shows like Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty. That said, the characters are older now, and this film takes on more mature themes than the first movie. Some characters are sexually active: One girl loses her virginity, only to have a pregnancy scare soon after. Two underage characters drink wine in one minor scene, there are heavy discussions about suicide, and friendships are tested in sometimes painful ways. But all of these issues are relatable, and it's refreshing to see a film take them on in a straightforward manner. It's also great to see empowered, interested, caring teens make their way in the world.
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What's the story?
The girls are back -- and so are the magical pair of pants -- in THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2, sequel to the hit movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which itself was based on a series of books by the same name. Life is a little more complicated this time around, with the four main characters dispersed to various places during the summer after their freshman year in different colleges. Lena (Alexis Bledel) is taking a life-drawing class that pushes her beyond the typical bounds of love, while aspiring filmmaker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is writing a romantic comedy even as her own love life hits definite peaks and valleys. Meanwhile, archaeology student Bridget (Blake Lively) is inspired to dig into her own past, and Carmen (America Ferrera) realizes that she's not just a bit player in the theater or in life: She's a star. But all of the distance and excitement has tested the girls' friendships, and the pants may have lost their magic. Or have they?
Is it any good?
Sweet, endearing, and, yes, a mite predictable, this sequel won't disappoint fans of the first movie and the books. (It blends events from the second, third, and fourth books, though it mostly focuses on the fourth.) Just as in the original movie, the lead actresses all rise to the occasion, notably Tamblyn, who's a standout in her Goth getups and faux bravado. The problems they encounter are bigger here, and they delve into questions about love -- both familial and romantic -- as well as identity and even young parenthood. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 also examines the difficulties of maintaining long-standing relationships under the strains of time, distance, and lack of communication.
It's all interesting, for sure, but the overabundance of storylines hobbles the movie a bit: It feels fragmented, like the characters' lives. Thankfully, it's still nuanced, though it does take on quite a bit -- no wonder it runs a little too long. But in the end, the bonds of friendship are stronger than anything life lobs in the sisterhood's way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 different from other teen flicks. Is it a realistic or "Hollywood-ized" depiction of college students' lives and friendships?
Can relationships that begin in childhood be sustained through life's ups and downs? How do you support your friends when they feel sad or angry?
Families can also discuss the girls' different dilemmas. What issues do they have to confront? What choices must they make? How have they changed since the first movie?
- In theaters: August 6, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2008
- Cast: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively
- Director: Sanaa Hamri
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature material and sensuality.
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