The four girls of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants may face more mature problems—concerning sex, love, heartache and friendship—in Sanaa Hamri’s sequel, but the storytelling has not followed suit, as this follow-up is a structural mess whose myriad plotlines lurch about in search of direction and whose character arcs are more akin to haphazard squiggly lines. After a year away from her high school BFFs, college freshman Carmen (America Ferrera) looks forward to a summer spent hanging with Lena (Alexis Bledel), Bridget (Blake Lively) and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn). Instead, however, the cutie pies find themselves off on personal adventures: Carmen discovers unlikely stardom and romance at a Vermont theater festival; Lena becomes torn between two men while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design; Bridget confronts suppressed pain over her mom’s suicide while on an archaeological dig in Turkey; and Tibby copes with the possibility of being pregnant as she works to complete an NYU screenwriting project. Despite having grown apart, the girls continue sending their magic one-size-fits-all pair of jeans to each other, though until a tacked-on reunion finale in Greece, Hamri’s film barely incorporates the pants into any of its primary storylines, so busy is it struggling to keep track of the many peripheral characters and subplots which crop up around each corner. As before, Ferrara and Tamblyn deliver disarmingly natural performances that help prop up those by the serviceable but personality-deficient Lively and Bledel. And if her direction is generally slapdash, Hamri employs the year’s most hilariously jarring musical cue, involving a nude figure-drawing model and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’s “Suck My Kiss.” Nonetheless, whereas the first film presented the titular pants as a force that united its characters in shared female experience, such an impression is here routinely thwarted by a fantasyland-set script that jumps erratically between exotic locales, pressing dilemmas and tumultuous emotions, not to mention has a habit of wrapping up serious situations through flippantly easy shortcuts.
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