Sisterhood of Traveling Pants 2 (PG-13) ***

Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn and Blake Lively are shown in a scene from, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Photo: Phil Caruso.

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

The magical pants are back on the big screen, but is their power fading? That’s the crucial question at the heart of this engaging for-girls-only sequel. The film, based on Ann Brashares’ popular series of novels, gets off to a slow start — it’s less confusing if you’ve recently seen the first film — but turns out to be a lot less tiresome than it sounds, aided by a wonderfully appealing cast and a strong message.

That fantastical bit about the jeans that fit four BFFs perfectly reflects a real dilemma: How to nurture close bonds after graduating high school, heading off to different colleges and replacing hands-on friendship with e-mails and occasional phone calls.

Narrator Carmen (America Ferrera, Ugly Betty) has hopes that the summer after her first year at Yale will be spent with her pals, but she’s cruelly shocked to learn they have other plans. Athletic Bridget (Blake Lively, Gossip Girl) will travel to Turkey to work on an archaeological dig. Artistic Lena (Alexis Bledel, Gilmore Girls) and punky Tibby (Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia) will be in New York City, the former taking a life-drawing course, the latter toiling in a video store and on an assignment to write a romantic-comedy screenplay.

Defeated, Carmen accepts an invitation to work backstage at an actors’ colony in Vermont. Mailing the pants to each other throughout the summer will have to take the place of hanging out.

Sisterhood follows the usual path of youthful drama: There’s a pregnancy scare, a tearful family reunion, a new brother and a bratty sister. And there are boys, fabulous boys, boys we all wish had existed when we were 18. One young man is a soulful Greek; another a cheeky Brit who can spout Shakespeare. Two other potential beaus look as though they’ve closely followed Mario Lopez’s work-out advice. If Sisterhood is but a fantasy, at least it’s a pleasant one.

But despite the romantic entanglements, which mostly end happily, the film is really about the value of friendship. Sex and the City tried to hammer home this message for an older audience earlier this summer but ended up merely touting the joys of unrestrained brand-name shopping. Sisterhood, happily for its fans, is all about the girl power.

Cast: Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, Kyle MacLachlan, Blythe Danner, Shohreh Aghdashloo

Director: Sanaa Hamri

Screenwriter: Elizabeth Chandler. Based on the novels by Ann Brashares.

Producers: Debra Martin Chase, Kira Davis, Denise de Novi, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove.

A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 117 minutes. Mature material, sensuality. Playing at: area theaters.


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