Keith Urban

With very little sex and very little city, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" still seems a good bet to grab a sizable chunk of the underserved chick-flick demographic, boosted by its young stars' blossoming profiles (particularly "Gossip Girl's" Blake Lively) and a blithely shallow approach to story.

With very little sex and very little city, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2″ still seems a good bet to grab a sizable chunk of the underserved chick-flick demographic, boosted by its young stars’ blossoming profiles (particularly “Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively) and a blithely shallow approach to story. A likable quartet of players, a surfeit of male bimbos and an appetite for quick-cooked emotion should make the Aug. 6 Warner Bros. release a bigger hit than its 2005 predecessor, which grossed $39 million domestically.

Adapted (like the first film) by Elizabeth Chandler from the novels by Ann Brashares, pic finds our girls no longer girls: Bridget (Lively) is playing soccer at Brown; Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is at NYU film school; Lena (Alexis Bledel) is attending the Rhode Island School of Design; and Carmen (America Ferrera) is miserable at Yale. “I was lost without them,” Carmen says of her friends during the treacly recap of events since the last movie.

Carmen is expecting them all to reunite for the summer, but her pals have other plans. Tibby has summer school in Manhattan. Lena is taking a drawing class, where she meets hunky model Leo (Jesse Williams), who may help her forget her true love, Kostos (Michael Rady). Bridget is going on an archeological dig in Turkey, where she meets the inspiring Professor Mehani (Shohreh Aghdashloo), gets to dress herself from Barneys Antiquities Excavation Collection and thinks about how much she misses her grandmother (Blythe Danner).

So Carmen accepts an invitation to a Vermont theater camp from a Yale classmate, Julia (Rachel Nichols), who’s far too blonde and Waspy not to eventually turn evil. (Along with sisterhood, pic isn’t afraid to embrace galloping cliche.) There, Carmen assumes the backstage role she was playing at Yale, until she’s brought out of the wings by the hunky, Brit-accented Ian (Tom Wisdom). Cast as Perdita in “A Winter’s Tale,” Carmen blooms like a Shakespearean rose.

Ferrera gives by far the best performance in the film — Lively is all mannerism and smoky looks, Tamblyn is doing shtick inspired by Liza Minnelli and Joan Blondell, and Bledel is fine, if prettily unengaging. But as great as she is, Ferrera is not a classical actress, and the enthusiasm that greets her every Elizabethan utterance is a bit hard to swallow. But “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2″ is about pleasability, not plausibility.

Meanwhile, the pants keep traveling: In the original, the girls found a pair of dungarees that mysteriously fit their disparate physiques (through, it must be assumed, jean-etic mutation) and stay in touch with each other’s rapidly changing worlds by FedExing the garment back and forth. What the pants will do when confronted by a pregnant member of the sisterhood becomes an issue — in fact, it’s the issue, since every other crisis in the film is basically much ado about nothing. Eventually the pants bring them all to a gloriously shot Greece, where Lena will have to resolve things with Kostos, who’s either married or not (it’s hard to say).

Helmer Sanaa Hamri (“Something New”) exposes her musicvideo roots in the glib way she and d.p. Jim Denault use the four young stars as props and arrange the story’s emotionally wrenching moments as if they were peaks in a bowl of whipped cream. It’s all largely eye candy, especially the men, although this can be forgiven: Women have a long enough history of being superficial in the movies, and a little payback is perfectly understandable.

Production values are first-rate.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Production

A Warner Bros. release of an Alcon Entertainment presentation, in association with Alloy Entertainment, of a Di Novi Pictures/Debra Martin Chase production. Produced by Chase, Denise Di Novi, Broderick Johnson, Kira Davis. Executive producers, Andrew A. Kosove, Christine Sacani, Alison Greenspan, Leslie Morgenstein, Bob Levy. Co-producers, Steven P. Wegner, Yolanda T. Cochran, Gaylyn Fraiche. Directed by Sanaa Hamri. Screenplay, Elizabeth Chandler, based on the novels by Ann Brashares.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Jim Denault; editor, Melissa Kent; music, Rachel Portman; music supervisor, Julia Michels; production designer, Gae Buckley; art director, Andrew Cahn; set decorator, George Detitta; costume designer, Dona Granata; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Mathew Price; sound designer/supervisor, Cameron Frankley; re-recording mixers, Gregory H. Watkins, Timothy O. LeBlanc; visual effects supervisor, Tom Turnbull; visual effects, Rocket Science VFX; assistant director, Richard Patrick; casting, Laura Rosenthal. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, July 30, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Tibby Tomko-Rollins - Amber Tamblyn Lena Kaligaris - Alexis Bledel Carmen Lowell - America Ferrera Bridget Vreeland - Blake Lively Julia - Rachel Nichols Ian - Tom Wisdom Carmen's Mom - Rachel Ticotin Brian McBrian - Leonardo Nam Kostos - Michael Rady Professor Nasrin Mehani - Shohreh Aghdashloo Greta - Blythe Danner Leo - Jesse Williams

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