The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a difficult movie to pin down. On the one hand, the teen drama, based on Ann Brashares' popular novel, employs an abundance of cliches 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.
Ms. Brashares' story, adapted for the screen by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandlet and directed by Ken Kwapis (Dunston Checks In), follows four high-school girls-longtime best friends-as they spend their first summer apart. Holding them together are the title pants, a "magic" pair of jeans that miraculously fits all four (despite their obvious size differences).
Sisterhood (rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality, and language) intercuts between Lena (Alexis Bledel of TV's Gilmore Girls), as she travels to Greece to live with her grandparents; Bridget (Blake Lively), as she attends a soccer camp in Mexico; Carmen (America Ferrera), as she visits her divorced dad and his new family; and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn of TV's Joan of Arcadia), who stays home to work at the local discount store and work on a "suckumentary."
The pants travel from friend to friend, staying a week in each spot to impart some magic on the proceedings. The real story, though, is not the pants, but the coming-of-age encounter/crisis/realization each girl faces. Lena is uptight about love and emotion. Bridget is struggling to come to terms with her mother's death. Tibby looks down on everyone around her. Most affectingly, Carmen is unable to understand how her father has adopted a new life without her (Ms. Ferrera is a standout in the uniformly capable cast).
Bridget's story is heavy with sexual overtones-uncomfortably so at times. She is, however, the one friend who regrets her actions over the summer. All four deal, often convincingly, with the real emotions of adolescence. Like nearly every film of this genre, each story strand ends with a tidy (and much less convincing) solution. But the journey each girl takes will offer their peers-and perhaps their peers' parents-much to discuss.