The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Directed By: Sanaa Hamri
Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Rachel Nichols, Tom Wisdom, Rachel Ticotin, Leonardo Nam, Michael Rady, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Blythe Danner, Jesse Williams, Lucy Hale, Kyle MacLachlan
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 relates the further exploits of friends Tibby (Tamblyn), Lena (Bledel), Carmen (Ferrera), and Bridget (Lively) as they return from their first year of college and embark on a summer of activity. Lena, heartbroken to learn that her Greek beau, Kostas (Rady), is married, takes a life-drawing class at the Rhode Island School of Design and begins a romance with a model from her class. Tibby toils away on a script for a class project at NYU film school while working in a video store and dealing with a pregnancy scare with her boyfriend, Brian (Nam). Carmen goes to a prestigious Vermont drama camp with her actress friend, Julia, to work backstage, is tricked into a successful audition for the role of Perdita in A Winter's Tale by a handsome actor, Ian (Wisdom), and is troubled both by the impending birth of a stepsibling and by Julia's attempts to sabotage her self-confidence. Rachel (Lively) goes on an archeological dig in Turkey, is mentored by a Professor (Aghdashloo), and realizes that she has unresolved issues about her mother's suicide which causes her to seek out her estranged grandmother (Danner). The characters and their stories are interconnected through occasional intersections as well as the device of the traveling pants, a pair of jeans that magically seem to fit each of them which they share via mail on a weekly basis through the summer, usually with an accompanying letter.
Following three years on the heels of the modestly successful Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the producers of this sequel had an interesting conundrum to address. The original novel had three sequels, each occurring over the course of consecutive summers from their predecessors. Considering the time it takes to assemble and produce such an ensemble film, if they tried to keep the same cast together, they would likely wind up with actresses in their 30s trying to pass for college sophomores and possibly drawing prohibitively expensive salaries by the time they made them all. Instead, the filmmakers split the difference, cherry picking stories from the three book sequels and integrating them into a screenplay set (as far as I can tell) two years after the original film.
Splitting the protagonists up allows for a lot of subplots and supporting characters, but the device is not executed quite as effectively as it was in the first film. The plot threads do not seem well balanced, and the one that gets the most screen time, Carmen's drama camp drama, is simplified to the point that it feels like a Disney channel movie. Oversimplification infects the other plots as well, with short shrift being given to such heavy issues as unplanned pregnancy, lost love, depression, and parental loss. Every one of these issues is dealt with and dispatched over the course of a couple of dramatic scenes before we are on to the next thread. The filmmakers wanted it all, intending to create a multi-threaded tapestry about friendship and coming of age but did not have enough movie to realize their ambition with any sense of depth.
On the positive side of the ledger, these shortcomings are at least partially overcome by a very capable cast beginning with the four charismatic leads, but also extending to the supporting cast. Actresses Blythe Danner and Shohreh Aghdashloo turn in fine performances that draw specific characters with very little screen time. In the drama camp sub-plot, Rachel Nichols and an un-billed Kyle MacLachlan play characters the world has seen in movies a thousand times, and while they do not exactly transcend their limitations, they at least seem to be having fun with what they are given to play. A similar fate befalls the actors playing the romantic interests for the "sisterhood", although Leonardo Nam and Tom Wisdom fare a little better than Michael Rady and Jessie Williams. Nam has the benefit of some character momentum from the earlier movie and Wisdom gets the advantage of the extra screen time afforded his subplot. Rady is used more as a plot device than a character despite his role in the previous film, and Williams, after building up some character interest through Leo's burgeoning romance with Lena, is dispatched unceremoniously from both the film and Lena's life without even a break-up scene. Of course, based on the number of such scenes Alexis Bledel played when she was on the TV show Gilmore Girls it is possible she had a no "pretending to be cool and casual about a relationship but secretly hiding her emotional devastation when it ends" scene clause in her contract.
In addition to the charismatic cast, the film benefits from a visually interesting series of varied locations which is a credit to the production designers and location scouts as well as to the eye of director Sanaa Hamri and director of photography Jim Denault.
The film presentation on disc fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. Thanks to the dual-layered disc with minimal extras and no 4:3 presentation taking up otherwise useful bits, this is one of the better DVD video transfers of a Warner theatrical new release I have seen in a while. Edge enhancement is minor to non-existent. Film grain is present and unfiltered. Compression is decent, but it falls short of perfection due to some light digital artifacts that interact with the film grain. This should not be noticeable from a reasonable viewing distance.
The English 5.1 track is encoded at a 384 kbps bitrate. The mix does not take much advantage of the surround and LFE channels, but it does include a lot of wide stereo effects across the front channels with light ambient support in the surrounds. Fidelity is very good despite the relatively low bitrate, probably because not a lot of bits are being allocated to the surrounds. Alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs are available in French and Spanish.
When the disc is first spun up, the following skippable series of promos plays in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise noted:
- Anti-Piracy PSA with scenes from Casablanca (1:00)
- Fred Claus DVD Trailer (:32)
- The Clique DTV Trailer(1:41)
- Another Cinderella Story DTV Trailer(1:47)
- He's Just Not That Into You Theatrical Trailer (1:58)
- Warner Blu-Ray Promo (1:09 – Dolby Digital 5.1 audio)
Go Jump Off a Cliff (4:25) is a brief featurette where the director, lead actresses, and producers tak about traveling to Greece for the film. The centerpiece is an extended anecdote about how a spontaneous experience of the actresses led to a scene near the film's conclusion. Interview participants include Producer Debra Martin Chase, Blake Lively, Producer Denise Di Novi, America Ferrera, Producer Kira Davis, Director Sanaa Hamri, Alexis Bledel, and Amber Tamblyn.
Additional Scenes each with an introduction from Director Sanaa Hamri (8:28) features four deleted or extended scenes with introductions from Director Hamri who speaks to the viewer in front of an editing bay. The scenes are as follows:
- Tibby and Lena discuss Tibby's romantic unhappiness in Tibby's room during her parents' anniversary party.
- Carmen and Julia discuss Carmen's anticipated reviews from her opening night.
- Bridget first meets Nasrin at the dig site in Turkey
- Extended sequence where Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget arrive in Santorini and eventually decide to hire donkeys to take them up the stairs.
The dual-layered DVD-9 disc is packaged in a standard Amaray case with an insert offering a code to unlock a download of a digital copy at a reduced price. This digital copy is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista PCs and Vista-friendly portable devices. It is not compatible with Mac computers or iPods.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 tries to cram enough subplots for at least two movies into less than two hours and ends up not doing full justice to any of them. This shortcoming is alleviated somewhat by the likable cast, with all of the leads returning from the first movie and a supporting cast that is underutilized but game. It is presented on DVD with an excellent video presentation and very good, if only modestly ambitious, audio. Extras are minimal, with the most interesting being a collection of four deleted scenes with introductions from the director.