Take Two

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 & r & & r & by MARYANN JOHANSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & up, those pants are still traveling. At least in the first movie, there was a storytelling reason for the magic jeans, which wondrously fit all four of our BFF heroines, even though one is tall and lanky while another is short and chubby (well, faux movie-chubby).

The story followed the pants as the girls shared them. You could almost believe that the pants were just a prop that lent the girls the confidence they needed to figure out how to make the transformation from adolescence to adulthood.

In The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, though, the jeans are entirely incidental to everything happening here. It would be an improvement, actually, if the jeans were fantastically imbuing each of the BFFs with just the right amount of go-girl power she needed to accomplish whatever bit of maturation she has to get through. There's none of that, though. There is, instead, a lot of endless, deadly serious talk about emotions, and precious little actual feeling, either on their part or ours.

The girls -- shy Lena (Alexis Bledel), bold Bridget (Blake Lively), gothy Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) and insecure Carmen (America Ferrera) -- are off on their first adventures as college students the summer after freshman year. And those adventures are like Sex and the City Babies. Three of the four girls -- all but Bridget -- are wrestling with boyfriend/potential boyfriend troubles, from not being able to accept that that totally cute and sensitive British guy is totally into you, to coping with a pregnancy "scare" that no woman today should have to cope with (hint: Honey, it's called EC, and it's easy to find, especially at a bastion of liberal evil like NYU), to juggling two ridiculously adorable and sensitive guys. Honestly, these young men are so perfect you expect them to walk on water.

But hey! A gal can always escape them -- or chase after them, as needed -- by jetting off to Europe on a moment's notice! I was all ready to bitch about how much money these gals were spending on FedExing those stupid jeans all over the place, but that's nothing to a last-minute flight to the Continent because a BFF needs you. (The movie tries to fool us into thinking that these chicks aren't spoiled-rotten brats with a tossed-off reference to a stepfather's "million frequent-flier miles" that were about to expire... but, you know, that doesn't really help.)

The gals are learning about themselves. They're discovering how complicated family can be. And it's true that these are fires that all young women must pass through. But they're handled here with such simplicity, and with such slathered-on sentimentality, that it couldn't be more phony. The film -- based on Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, by Ann Brashares -- wants, I think, to be an antidote to the toxic culture we create for girls and young women, one that sets us up for a life of miserable self-doubt. It purports to be all strong and go-girl and pro-female. But it isn't. It tells us, in the end, that women should be able to read one another's minds -- we shouldn't even need to talk about whatever stuff is on our minds and bothering us -- and if we can't, that's a massive failure of our friendships. Which is total b.s. (Rated PG-13)