Ask any woman and she'll tell you that the perfect pair of jeans is a thing of wonder and beauty indeed. They can make you feel comfortable, attractive, emboldened, at home. They even have an annoying way of letting you know when you're not taking good enough care of yourself. In other words, the perfect pair of jeans is not so unlike a good friend.

So it seems altogether fitting that when The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' four best friends—Carmen (America Ferrera of Real Women Have Curves), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn of TV's Joan of Arcadia), Lena (Alexis Bledel of TV's The Gilmore Girls), and Bridget (newcomer Blake Lively)—can't be together for an entire summer (their longest stretch apart in their 16 years), they allow a "magical" pair of jeans to link them all together.

Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn and Alexis Bledel

Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn and Alexis Bledel

The jeans are magical because they fit all four of these diverse female bodies—from the tall, athletic Bridget to the voluptuous Puerto Rican, Carmen. And honestly, the fact that they're not fighting over a pair of jeans that makes them all look great from behind is a huge testament to the strength of their friendship.

The sisterhood began even before these four were born. Their moms met in a prenatal aerobics class and gave birth within a week of one another. These young women have shared just about every waking moment since. So the fact that they're parting for the summer—Lena to visit her grandparents in Greece, Bridget to soccer camp in Mexico, Carmen to spend the summer with her dad in South Carolina (he left when she was 10), and Tibby to stay home and work a boring drug-store job to earn money for more video equipment (she's making a documentary)—is a big deal.

On a shopping trip the week before they part, they wander into a thrift shop and all end up trying on the same pair of jeans. Marveling that it fits them all, they buy the pants, and on the eve of their departures host a clandestine farewell ceremony where they christen themselves the sisterhood and lay down the ground rules for the pants—including the fact that they aren't to be washed or double cuffed (tacky!) or taken off by anyone but the wearer.

Lena (Alexis Bledel) tries to find her way in Greece

Lena (Alexis Bledel) tries to find her way in Greece

The pants start their travels with Lena in Greece. Lena is the shy beauty of the bunch, a buttoned-up prude fearful of too much emotion. This reticence is challenged by her boisterous gaggle of Greek relatives, but mostly by Kostos, a dreamy Greek fisherman/college student who also happens to be on the same wrong side as Lena in a long-standing family feud. In his life-loving presence, Lena reluctantly starts to unclench and unwind.

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Next stop for the pants is back home to the pierced, blue-haired, snarky Tibby. They're delivered to her house by a precocious 12-year-old named Bailey, who appoints herself Tibby's assistant in the making of a documentary about local lives of quiet desperation (which Tibby lovingly refers to as her "suckumentary"). Tibby initially swats away Bailey's perky overtures of friendship like an annoying gnat, but with her friends gone for the summer and her house overrun by her two toddler siblings, Bailey's relentless enthusiasm is the best thing she's got going.

Amber Tamblyn plays the snarky Tibby, who works a boring drug-store job

Amber Tamblyn plays the snarky Tibby, who works a boring drug-store job

The pants next travel to soulful, strong-willed Carmen, who welcomes this much-needed evidence of the familiar as she feels like a freak in "the land of the blondes." The blondes are her father's fiancée and her two kids, new additions he failed to mention before Carmen arrived for the summer. As they all bustle about with wedding plans and forming a new family, Carmen feels more and more invisible.

The pants finally make it to athletic, impulsive Bridget, who's taking part in a soccer camp in a tiny Mexican town. Fresh from her mother's suicide and left only with her emotionally distant father, she's almost textbook as she channels all of her energy on being the best at her sport—and in brazenly winning the affections of Eric, one of the camp counselors.

Due to the vast array of topics the sisters deal with throughout their summer adventures, this is more than just a teen-girl flick. How wonderful to see young women in movies who aren't just obsessed with boys. Lena's fearful desire to be open to love and Carmen's gut-wrenching confrontation with her absentee dad (one of the best scenes in the film) resonate with moviegoers of all ages. (The 40-something guy next to me even sniffled at the latter scene.)

America Ferrera turns in a terrific performance as Carmen

America Ferrera turns in a terrific performance as Carmen

After a year marked by Mean Girls and Saved, it's also refreshing to see teen girls be nice and caring to one another. While a few of their lines are pure cheese and sound way too wise or sophisticated for 16-year-olds, their genuine celebrate-the-good-times, cry-with-you-through-the-bad friendships almost make that OK. And this quartet of young actresses is impressive, especially Tamblyn and Ferrera. I can't wait to see more from these talented, strong women.

Diehard fans of the book this movie is based upon (Ann Brashares' New York Times bestseller)—and I saw evidence of its cult-like following in the four girls sporting their own matching, journaled-upon jeans and sisterhood T-shirts in the lobby of the theater—should know there are a few changes here. Lena's sister, Effie; Tibby's crush, Tucker Rowe; and Tibby's beloved guinea pig, Mimi, are MIA. Lena's storyline is the most different, with romance blossoming much quicker and sooner than in the book. And with a few added scenes, the girls' stories unfortunately wrap up much neater in the movie. One of the things I loved about the book is that there was some resolution, yet a fair amount of messiness by the end. That's real life. I wish the movie would have allowed for more of those loose ends.

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Bridget (Blake Lively) is off to Mexico for soccer camp

Bridget (Blake Lively) is off to Mexico for soccer camp

The most disappointing departure from the book comes after one of the girls has her first sexual encounter. In the book, there are realistic emotional consequences for this choice. In the movie, her regrets take a different turn and are resolved way too quickly. Still, parents could use this plot line as a great conversation starter with their teens.

Overall, The Sisterhood is somewhat reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz—four friends on a quest to find something specific only to realize that anything resembling an answer is to be found in the journey itself, in their friendships, and in themselves. And while the Sisters don't travel together, it's the pants that link them physically to one another. This testament to the power of friendship and community is one of the key strengths of the story.

We fallen human beings need one another, and even in our independence-is-everything society, these girls have that truth down cold. Throughout this coming-of-age tale, the girls wrestle with who they are, who they're becoming, what their place is in the world. How wise they are to realize we can't really find those answers on our own, that we're all inexorably woven into the fabric of each other's lives.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Which of the four main characters do you resonate with most? Why?

  2. Some of the characters are a study in contrasts. Lena, who's lived a sheltered life, is afraid to love. Bailey and Kostos, who have known great pain, are very open to love and life. Why do you think those with the harder road in life are more open? Where do you fall on that continuum?

  3. Throughout the movie we see the profound effect friends have on our lives. Who makes up your sisterhood or brotherhood? How do these people shape who you are?

  4. One of the characters wonders aloud if life isn't so much about the big, sweeping circumstance but rather about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures. Do you agree or disagree with that idea?
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The Family Corner

For parents to consider

There are a couple of brief scenes of the characters in their undies (while trying on the jeans), and one of Lena swimming in her bra and underwear. There's also a storyline of teen sexuality, though we only see fully-clothed kissing and then a later reference to things that went much further than that.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet
from Film Forum, 06/09/05

Who would want to see a movie about four teenage girls going shopping for pants? Who would sit still for a story about a pair of pants that fits any girl that tries them on?

Teen girls, obviously. But what's surprising is that their mothers, brothers, fathers, and boyfriends are sitting still for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the new film by Ken Kwapis, adapted from the novel by Ann Brashares. As these girls explore their varying stories, celebrating their friendship and planning for different futures, they find themselves in engaging, challenging situations that elevate this film above others in its genre. In short, critics say that Sisterhood is a case of one film fits all.

Most Christian critics liked it, and are encouraging viewers to try the film on for size.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says this "sweet but contrived film, despite its bubblegum title and breezy Judy Blume veneer, tackles heavy issues like divorce, death, ethnic identity and teen sexuality (which may be inappropriate for younger teens) but ultimately imparts a life-affirming message about friendship and family."

Lisa Rice (Crosswalk) describes it as "a sweet movie with adventure, romance, and a compelling picture of the power of friendship in the very real issues of teen life."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the filmmakers "fully understand their target audience and push all the expected buttons to make the experience especially meaningful for them. To their credit, they push those buttons respectfully by honestly depicting the depth of emotional pain and joy that young women experience. All four actresses do commendable work and capture the essence not only of their characters but the bond of friendship their characters enjoy."

Steven Isaac (Plugged In), on the other hand, isn't much impressed, saying it's "sweet and sappy, but it just doesn't mean very much."

Pants also pleases mainstream critics. Scott Moore (Washington Post) says, "The emotional story and fine acting are enough to make this a must-see movie for teen girls. The real surprise is that they can make a grown man cry."

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from Film Forum, 06/16/05

Andrew Coffin (World) writes that the film "employs an abundance of clichés and traffics in some frustrating Hollywood conventions (notably, quick-fix syndrome). But the film also reaches for depths of emotion and circumstance that will almost certainly resonate with many in its intended audience–and even some outside that limited sphere."

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for thematic elements, some sensuality and language)
Directed By
Ken Kwapis
Run Time
1 hour 59 minutes
Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera
Theatre Release
June 01, 2005 by Warner Bros.
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