The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) — Wash them between, at least

“Wear them. They’ll make you brave.”

Justin’s rating: Brotherhood of the Traveling Boxers didn’t quite do the same for me

Justin’s review: Vapid. Giggly. Full of bright colors and idyllic suburbian lifestyles. Long discussions about boys, makeup and what-oh-what will I ever wear to the prom. Impromptu dance routines to tinny pop music. Multi-million dollar shopping sprees in the mall. Hilary Duff.

Those are some things that you just expect to permeate a teen girl movie aimed at, well, teenage girls. If I’m ever in down spirits and need to lash out at a movie, this is an excellent genre to mock. So the last thing I ever expected out of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a film that took teenage girls seriously instead of patting them patronizingly on the head with tiresome clichés. Not to say that it doesn’t have boys, romance, and about two bucketfulls of free-flowing tears, but it didn’t feel phony.

The premise of Sisterhood is that on the eve of four best friends splitting up for a summer apart for the first time, they discover a pair of jeans at a store that magically fits all of their various body types. So instead of immediately trying to analyze this supernatural weave in order to market it for billions, they form a little pact wherein the pants will “travel” between them via mail during the summer to make it the thread that ties them all together. You realize, that as a guy, it pains me to write sentences like the one previous. I’m doing it for you.

What I liked is that beyond a girlie flick, this is about friends — and I can relate to friends. I’ve always had a soft spot for movies and stories about groups of best friends who stick together through wild circumstances. Which is why I ever saw or read The Baby-Sitters Club without imploding.

The four girls in question aren’t perfect, whiny or screen-typical. There’s Lena (Alexis Bledel, Sin City), a quiet artist-type who travels to Greece and discovers that the Greek love and spit fly freely everywhere. There’s Tibby (Amber Tamblyn, The Ring), a teen with multi-colored hair who stays home to make a documentary with the world’s most annoying kid tagging along. There’s Carmen (America Ferrera, Lords of Dogtown), a half-Puerto Rican who travels to her dad’s only to discover he’s getting remarried. And there’s Bridget (Blake Lively, Accepted), a soccer player who trains in Baja California and falls for one of her coaches.

It’s odd that a movie about four girls who share very little screen time together can qualify as a movie about best friends, but McGuffin’s pants actually work to keep the narrative flowing between their stories. None of them have perfect lives, nor suddenly find themselves in a silly musical montage of whirlwind adventure and romance. It’s definitely more of a drama than a comedy (which went against my first assumption coming into this), and anyone who can’t handle girls suddenly breaking out into sob fests might be best steered to a safer genre, like slapstick vampire westerns.

Okay, so really all of these stories have very little to do with who Justin is, but I’m secure enough just to watch something once in a while that doesn’t have a chainsaw strapped to the end of any limb. This is the anti-Crossroads, which had no tether to reality but plenty of connections to pink frilly wear and major record label deals. Instead, Sisterhood kinda charmed me with the little details of teenage life, defying cliché expectations how things would end up, and delivering a respectably mature package in the end.

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