This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown, for some reason, chose “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”
The Movie: “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (2005)
Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively
Director: Ken Kwapis
Plot Summary: (From Netflix) Four best friends buy a mysterious pair of pants that fits each of them despite their differing sizes and makes whoever wears them feel fabulous.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77 percent
Brown: After such a long string of action movies and Nic Cage insanity, I figured it was time to go down a more emotional route on the JOE-DOWN. A sisterly route. A story about love, about coming of age, about … pants.
Thankfully, I was single around the time this movie came out because there is a good chance that an 18-year-old guy would have been dragged to this movie by their high-school girlfriend.
So instead, at 29 years old, I dragged one of my best friends into watching this movie on Netflix. I know we live over 200 miles away from each other, but what did you think of our date with “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Froemming?
Froemming: How you managed to find a movie with more confusing subplots than “Batman v Superman” is beyond me, Brown. This movie could probably be used in an enhanced interrogation technique in Guantanamo Bay. Not since “Fuller House” have I been this angry at my TV.
Brown: That’s a little extreme…
Froemming: No it is not. That is pretty reserved for how I felt watching this movie.
Brown: What was it that drove you insane? Was it the everlasting friendship of four girls who are “The Breakfast Club” without the charm, the fun or the marijuana? Or how their four summers are intertwined by jeans? Now that I think about it, this movie is a two-hour commercial for Levi’s: The jeans that fit all shapes and sizes. I hate pants shopping because that is NOT how it works.
Should I let you vent now, or should we go down the line and let you rip this movie apart chronologically?
Froemming: Let’s move this along. OK, so we have four life-long friends, who in reality would never be caught dead hanging out with one another. And they are spending their very first summer away from each other, because they are psychotically codependent on one another in life.
Brown: Let’s break down our cast of main characters:
- Carmen: Our narrator for this coming-of-age story. She’s off to spend her summer with her dad, who left her and her mom a long time ago.
- Tibby: The outcast/goth girl of the group that has nothing to do this summer, so she works at fake Wal-Mart. But because she’s artsy, she’s making a film during the summer.
- Bridget: Clearly the popular one of the group. The tall, blonde preppy girl that was every high-school fantasy that pop culture would have you adore. I’ll be honest: I was never into the Jennifer Aniston type. I liked the Winona Ryder type more.
- Ummm…?: I’ll be honest, the fourth member of the group, I don’t know if I ever learned her name. I know the actress is Alexis Bledel from “Gilmore Girls,” so I just have her in my notes as Gilmore Girl or GG. And I’ll refer to her as such. Anyways, she’s going to Greece because why not?
Froemming: The last one is Lena Kaligaris (I had to look it up on Wikipedia, she was that forgettable in this film).
Brown: Look, I didn’t learn her name during the time I watched this movie and I’m not learning it now.
Anyways, before they head off for their summer adventures, they all go clothes shopping and come across a pair of jeans that somehow fits all of them despite them being all different shapes and sizes. And something that bugged me terribly about this was that Tibby and GG go and try on the pants in the changing room, but Carmen and Bridget just take their clothes off in the store for everyone to see to try on the pants. Aside from giving the sad boyfriends in the crowd some jailbait material (these girls are 16 and 17 years old, which makes this all sorts of wrong), who doesn’t use the changing room that is literally 10 feet to their left?
Froemming: The only time I have seen that happen other than here was in the movie “Mallrats.” But yeah, they find some magic pants, and they come up with an idea that will link them during this summer away from one another: They will share the pants, mailing them across the globe to each other and WRITE LETTERS TO EACH OTHER ABOUT THE PANTS! Hahaha, this film destroyed my sanity in the first 20 minutes.
Brown: Another detail that grossed me out was Carmen says — as they make their pants pact in a yoga studio they broke into (because that’s where their moms all met, apparently) — is that they won’t wash them all summer. No, do your laundry, you disgusting people! Bridget is going to soccer camp, and Carmen and GG are going to South Carolina and Greece, respectively. These places are warm. Those jeans are going to get sweaty and smelly.
Before we delve deeper here, we are going to break down each character’s story to make it easier to read and because this movie is disjointed thanks to its editing. So, let’s start with Bridget.
Froemming: I need to ask this: Who the hell goes to Mexico for soccer camp?
Brown: Oh my god, yes! Not only does Bridget go to soccer camp in Mexico, we find out during the credits she went to Baja California, Mexico. I made the joke in my notes that she went to Tijuana, but she pretty much did! And these characters are based in Maryland… and they show up to soccer camp in a bus! That is the most unnecessary amount of travel to go to a soccer camp. Could Bridget not have found a quality soccer camp in the Washington DC area?
Froemming: I think they made it Mexico because she flirts with a 20-plus year old soccer coach, and that would be illegal in the states. Yet, it still is pretty damn disturbing, and changing the country doesn’t make it less so.
And that was one thing that really didn’t sit right with me: This “love” story between her and the coach. It reeked of wrong on all counts. But the angle here is Bridget is broken after her mom passed away, so she is trying to fill that void by hitting on this guy, who at times plays along and at other times is generally creeped out by the whole thing — as he should be.
Brown: It had an interesting premise because Bridget is becoming of age without her mom, who committed suicide. That’s a heavy toll to be transitioning into adulthood without a parent, especially the one that’s the same sex as you.
But the way it’s portrayed in the movie just shows a girl who is relentless about going for a guy and wanting to lose her virginity. It’s less a deep story about a girl coming to grips about her mom’s death and more a run-of-the-mill story about teenage lust. The movie wanted to build empathy and I just didn’t get any from her.
Plus, when they’re running together on the beach, I’ve seen more sexual tension in a beach running scene from Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.
Froemming: Then there is the bar scene, where Bridget basically gyrates all over the dance floor and creeps the guy (and everyone else there) out even more. This is Mexico, Bridget, not some college bar in St. Cloud, Minn. Keep it together. But she ends up sleeping with the guy, but it doesn’t solve her problems.
Brown: Another thing that bugged me in Bridget’s story: I get a daughter is going to lean more toward her mom, but Bridget really treats her dad badly. He isn’t some absentee father like Carmen has (which we’ll get to later), the guy is trying. But, Bridget treats him more as an annoyance.
Froemming: Then we have GG in Greece — and to be honest, I pretty much remember nothing from this beyond the whole “Romeo and Juliet” thing with the boy she likes. GG is the equivalent of paint drying.
Brown: I can’t stand how nonchalant GG seems about being in this amazing seaside villa in Greece. She just sits in her room and draws, which OK, she’s artsy and all, but GG is wasting a golden opportunity to experience a beautiful place. She takes it for granted and I was frustrated by this. I would say more about this whole thing with GG and the boy she falls in love with, but I didn’t learn his name either. And at this point, I don’t care to look it up on Wikipedia. All I know is he looked like young Dan Marino.
I’ll say this before we move on: During GG’s story, I yelled “Oh (redacted) you” at my TV. Twice.
Now, onto Carmen.
Froemming: I’m just glad we both had the same immediate reaction to Carmen’s story: Her dad is Eric Gordon from “Billy Madison.” And he is rebuilding his life (in my imagination) in this film after losing the academic decathlon to Billy and being shot by Steve Buscemi. It was all I had to keep going with this.
Brown: At first, Carmen’s story arc was the one I felt sympathy for because it turns out her dad is about to remarry, and he never told Carmen about it. That is a hell of a shock to walk into, seeing your dad with a fiance and her two future stepchildren that he’s built a life around. Basically, her head is spinning the entire time and her Christian minister-looking dad devotes all his time to his new family. Then, Carmen acts like a child and I start to feel less sympathy for her for the rest of the film.
Froemming: I agree, I felt for her at first. Then she she acts like a spoiled little brat. But I then felt sympathy again when her future step-mom fat shames her when they are trying on the bridesmaids dresses. That was all sorts of wrong on that woman’s part.
Brown: Oh, the whole family treats her as a pariah.
Froemming: That family felt like a cult. Glassy eyes, secrets, lies, sending the brother to see his alcoholic father being a shame upon their image. It was creepy.
Brown: The family acts like how the “South Park” guys portray Mormons.
But, Carmen manages to ruin her good will to me. She gives her dad the stink eye for saying grace at the dinner table (he didn’t do that with her family) and I’m pretty sure Carmen was wearing a cross around her neck during this interaction. Then she runs away after the fat shaming and when she finally returns to the house, she throws a rock at the window in anger.
Maybe, just maybe, you should talk to your dad? Although, her dad does deserve to be slapped: His daughter goes missing and he doesn’t look for her? Not only did you fail at business ethics, Eric, you fail at fatherhood.
Froemming: Her throwing the rock at the window really symbolized how I felt with this movie: I wanted to throw a rock at my TV watching this. But hey, we have one more character to follow on this Magical Pants Journey: Tibby.
Brown: And of all the stories, I found Tibby’s to be the most fascinating despite the fact she doesn’t leave Maryland. One day while working at Faux-Mart (or whatever they called it), a little girl collapses in the store. We find out this girl is named Bailey, and she just so happens to live next door. She sees Tibby making her “movie” and butts in because she’s a precocious 12-year-old.
Froemming: Yup, Tibby’s story was the only one that didn’t nearly put me to sleep. Since she is the “artsy” one, that again nobody in this group would ever be friends with, she is making a documentary on — life? I don’t really recall. She tapes her co-workers having their smoke breaks, so that’s something I guess.
Brown: I don’t know what film-obsessed character I find less endearing: Tibby or the guy from “American Beauty” that films the plastic bag.
With that said, I have a theory on the relationship between Tibby and Bailey, if you’ll indulge me. I truly believe that Bailey is a figment of Tibby’s imagination.
Tibby never comes off as someone with a lot of friends, so when her three besties leave the state for the summer, she’s left to her own devices. And her co-dependence with Bridget, Carmen and GG all manifest into an independent, driven 12-year-old, all things Tibby is not. Tibby is going insane from loneliness and all she has to lean on is this little girl telling her how to shoot her movie. Bailey is Tyler Durden, Tibby is Edward Norton and the movie is “Project Mayhem.” I hope the Pixies are in the closing credits of Tibby’s movie.
Froemming: Makes sense to me. But because this film falls into so many cliches, we are first introduced to Bailey when she faints at the store — which means there is something wrong with her. And there is, Bailey has leukemia. Another reason I felt really bad for Bailey was because she is spending all her time with this loser Tibby, who can’t even get a job at a real Wal-Mart.
Brown: And the most nitpicky thing I can come up with in this movie: While making her film, Tibby and Bailey find someone who is playing “Dragon’s Lair” at a store. I thought, “Oh man, that’s awesome.” “Dragon’s Lair” is a classic arcade game from the 80s that had animation from artist Don Bluth, who animated “The Land Before Time” and “The Secret of NIMH.” But then we zoom in and he’s playing “Dragon’s Lair 3D.”
“Dragon’s Lair 3D” was never an arcade cabinet, movie! It was a console game. Then, when Bailey is in the hospital, she has a GameBoy DS by her bed and she says she’s playing “Dragon’s Lair” on it. “Dragon’s Lair 3D” was never ported to the DS. QUIT INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE, MOVIE!
Also, yes, I’m a gigantic nerd.
Froemming: I will be honest here: Even though I knew Bailey’s fate (again, the fainting tipped me off right away), I still teared up a little when she dies. She was the only likeable character in this whole movie, so I invested some emotion into her.
Brown: By that point, I was lamenting over the fact that I was watching this movie sober.
But I can’t believe it… “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” moved you to tears? People, this is like The Grinch’s heart growing three sizes thanks to Cindy Lou Who.
Froemming: Hey, I do feel stuff from time to time, and this cheap gimmick worked. It wasn’t Artax dying in the “Neverending Story” tears, but whatever.
Brown: We’ve touched on all the story arcs of
“First World Problems: The Movie” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” and the foursome chat about their summers in the film’s closing scenes, talking about how they thought their experience with the pants were magical. Hey, dummies, it was happenstance. Get over the fact the pants fit all of you. I bet they came across a pair of jeggings and were too oblivious to realize it.
I think we’ve worn this review out like beat-up denim. Let’s get to recommendations.
Would You Recommend?:
Brown: As much as I loved torturing Froemming with this film, I will not recommend it. It’s a typical teenage girl romp that we had no business watching. The story is disjointed and frustrating. And in terms of garnering emotion, it’s very exploitative, I think. Female-centric movies can be good, this is just not an example of that.
Froemming: No. This movie is a mess that even magic pants cannot fix. The characters are cardboard cutouts of cliches thrown on camera for a very boring two-hour film. It is cut and edited so sloppily that there are scenes that are not needed (I’m guessing it was just padding this thing out). There are much better female-centric movies out there (“Mean Girls” and “A League of Their Own” immediately come to mind).
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: