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June 3, 2005

Traveling Pants cure cancer, make asses look great

We initially counted ourselves among the privileged few to attend a May 10 sneak preview of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which opened nationwide June 1. The film is yet another adaptation of a young-adult novel—this time bringing the first book in Ann Brashares's New York Times bestselling series of the same name to the screen. We went in with high expectations, given Brashares's fine contributions to the genre, but came out with, well, a lot to say.

The Acting

Ilana: I thought America Ferrara was amazing as Carmen. She stood out among the four.

Matt: Actually, none of the problems were with the acting, but rather with the writing and direction.

Jenn: I have to disagree on that one. Alexis Bledel as Lena was not as good as the others. Primarily because she was Rory [her Gilmore Girls character], as she is in all her other movies. It's something about the way she speaks—with her phrasing and intonation. In all her roles she reads her lines the same way. As long as they keep casting her in a demure role, she will always be Rory.

I: I finally jumped onto the Alexis-Bledel-can't-act bandwagon.

J: I bet in real life she's just like Rory. However, I also bet in real life that Amber Tamblyn is not just like Tibby. I thought she did an excellent job portraying teenage angst, especially with her job at Wallman's.

M: She had the best acting in the movie, especially when she broke down at Bailey's hospital bed. Except it was too bad, because it seemed like she was implying that the pants could cure cancer.

I: That was when Bailey said, "But the pants are magical. They brought me to you." Clearly the worst line in the film.

M: There was a lot of competition for that.

The Direction

I: I had the same problem with Amber Tamblyn that I did with Alexis Bledel: Their characters were really angry, and I couldn't figure out why.

J: The main problem with the film was that you couldn't differentiate the girls very well—why they were the way they were. The book actually explained this; the director [Ken Kwapis] just did a crappy job. For example, with Tibby, the movie didn't explain all the problems with her family that caused her to be so bitchy. Since the movie really only showed us Carmen's family, it was difficult to understand each girl's motives.

M: My favorite editorial flourish was when the soccer ball at Paul's game became the soccer ball at Bridget's game. But anyone could have directed that. And not everyone would have compared it to American Graffiti, as Ken Kwapis stupidly did in Entertainment Weekly. Blake Lively was pretty impressive, considering that this is her first film, other than some Disney Channel stuff.

J: Still, the movie could have done more with how Bridget's outgoing behavior, bordering on creepy, is related to her mom's death. The movie didn't clarify why Bridget was so outgoing, and Lena was so quiet. According to the book, Lena is so beautiful, no one understands her. When you translate this to a movie where everyone is beautiful, it's hard to get this—especially when Kostos always jumps in when Lena is trying to explain herself. So we're left never understanding why Lena is such a weirdo. Ooh, we need to start talking about the boys!

The Boys

I: Here's what I have to say about Kostos: He made the ridiculous scene where Lena and Kostos take off their clothes even more ridiculous.

J: I liked the scene where Lena is standing on the cliff and talking about how it hurt to not hurt.

I: Hence my confusion about why she was so fucked-up. I had no idea why she hurt.

J: I enjoyed when it went from Bridget having sex to Lena playing with honey. But even more than that, I liked how at least 10 minutes of the film was packages being shipped all over the country.

I: Seriously, the Fed-Ex guy didn't get more interesting as the film went on.

M: It reminded me of the Fed-Ex product placement in Cast Away. And how come Paul wasn't cute?

J: Never mind Paul. Why does Eric look like an indie rocker wannabe? He looks like he should be in Lifehouse.

I: I'm not sure why Bridget would risk anything or expend any energy trying to get that guy. I have no idea why.

J: Well, when your mom dies, apparently you just have to go after ugly guys all the time.

The Specifics

J: I liked when Tibby and Bailey were just lying under the stars. The person next to me was chanting, "Make out! Make out!"

M: That's, like, incestuous lesbian pedophilia.

J: Which is hotter than Bridget and the guy from Lifehouse.

I: The only thing I cared about in the film was the friendships. Because when you're 16 and with your girlfriends, it actually is that cheesy. Everything else just seemed ridiculous.

J: Like all the shots of Bridget's hair. And her tennis shorts. Who does she think she is? She looked like Anna Kournikova running around. Badly.

M: Or when she poured water over herself like Brian on Queer as Folk.

J: Speaking of Brian, how about Brian McBrian from the convenience store? He gyrated pretty sexily in front of that video game machine. He and Tibby are going to get together later on. In another book.

M: Or in the sequel to the movie. Which, judging from the audience's reaction to this one, will probably never be made.

I: I really loved the scenes when it was just the girls. When Carmen called her dad.

J: That was so moving! I cried.

The Audience

I: The audience seemed to have no ability to just take the magic of the pants for granted. The whole point of the book is that the pants are magical.

M: The thing is, you know in advance if you're the kind of person who's going to enjoy a movie called The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants.

J: But we could take the emphasis off traveling. And place it more on sisterhood.

I: We have to say something about the ridiculousness of Eric coming to see Bridget in Maryland. Which wasn't in the book, right? Because Maryland is, you know, really on the way from Mexico to New York City.

M: And your dog would just pluck your pants off the bed and run outside to your guy friend, who just conveniently happened to be around.

J: But we did need a dog in the movie. Especially in light of the trailer before the film [for the upcoming Must Love Dogs]. As far as Y.A. adaptations go, Princess Diaries was much better. It stands alone as a movie, and it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

The Verdict

I: I'd watch the first 30 minutes of Sisterhood again. But other than that, I'd rather read the book.

M: Unless you're a major fan of the book, I think you could skip this movie. You know what? Skip it anyway.