Rule No. 1 when discussing The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: It’s okay for a grown movie critic to admit she cried freely and with great feeling for more than half the movie, and grinned like a dork through the remainder. The sob-smiles flowed as 16-year-old Best Friends Forever Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (America Ferrera), Lena (Alexis Bledel), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) spend their first summer apart from one another, dealing with everything that’s alternately thrilling (love) and seriously not fair (death) about life. Binding the quartet together is a magical pair of jeans, passed from friend to friend, that fits perfectly (also not fair) over their four very different-size butts.
Rule No. 2: It’s okay to use tears and smiles, honestly evoked, as a measure of Pants’ warmth and effectiveness. Ann Brashares’ super-selling young-adult novel became a hit because, although not every woman feels like a member of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, or the First Wives Club, or the Joy Luck Club, or is Waiting to Exhale, or Trying to Get Her Groove Back, every woman has, at one time, been 16 years old. TV-honed director Ken Kwapis (Malcolm in the Middle) knows this, and moves the action along with the same easy, frequent jumps between adventures that Brashares conjures on the page.
Rule No. 3: It’s okay that the screenplay, by femme-flick pros Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler, diverges from the book, because the tone remains true to the seat of the Pants.
Rule No. 4: The more roles that go to the fresh, charming, untabloidy Pants cast, the better. (That Tamblyn and Bledel happen to have TV identities as Joan of Arcadia and a Gilmore Girl is just…a bonus.) And as a subset of this rule: Ferrera, the great young star of Real Women Have Curves, can branch out whenever she likes. But the longer she goes on representing the interests of Hispanic Americans with such flair, and speaking out for young women who are totally at home in their full flesh, the greater the opportunity for women of all colors and sizes to see beauty on screen that looks like theirs. Ours.
Rule No. 5: Anyone who books a trip to the Greek island of Santorini after watching Lena bud and blossom with a first beau in the Mediterranean sun must confess, in writing, that it was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants that did the selling.