(director: Sanaa Hamri; screenwriters: Elizabeth Chandler/based on the novel “Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares; cinematographer: Jim Denault; editor: Melissa Kent; music: Rachel Portman; cast: Amber Tamblyn (Tibby), America Ferrera (Carmen), Blake Lively (Bridget), Alexis Bledel (Lena), Rachel Nichols (Julia), Rachel Ticotin (Carmen’s Mom), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Professor Nasrin Mehani), Leonardo Nam (Brian McBrian), Jesse Williams (Leo), Tom Wisdom (Ian), Michael Rady (Kostos), Blythe Danner (Greta), Lucy Kate Hale (Effie), Ernie Lively (Bridget’s Father), Stevie Ray Dallimore (Nigel O’Bannon), Erik Jensen (Video Store Manager Phil), Kyle MacLachlan (Tom, director); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Debra Martin Chase/Denise Di Novi/Broderick Johnson/Kira Davis; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2008)
“It’s a film that probably will please its targeted viewer more than it did me.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Inspired by Ann Brashares’ YA novels and her novel of “Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood,” and is written by Elizabeth Chandler. It’s a sequel that picks up where the last film left off some three years ago, as it chronicles the relationship among four teenager best-friends–the vulnerable Lena Kaligaris (Alexis Bledel), the independent-minded Carmen Lowell (America Ferrera), the athletic Bridget Vreeland (Blake Lively), and the punk dressing Tibby Tomko-Rollins (Amber Tamblyn)–all of different temperaments who bond over a lucky pair of used rhinestone jeans that they call pants. Since it somehow fits each, although they are different sizes and shapes, the jeans will be passed on for each to wear on a week-by-week basis. The chick flick is directed with a heavy hand by newcomer Sanaa Hamri (Ken Kwapis directed the original), who juggles together four trite soap opera stories of each girl by quickly jumping from one story to the next and eventually weaving it into a climactic life lesson learned that involves those traveling pants ultimately inspiring the girls with a possible last lesson before it can ever be used again. The sequel seems to have run out of enough story to be relevant and hold the viewer’s interest, as the overlong film drags for long stretches and fails to generate any real excitement over its contrived overbaked melodramatics.

All the high-achieving girls have completed their freshman year of college in different schools and all are going to be away from their NY homes over their summer vacation. Bridget attends Brown University and is going on a school-sponsored archeological dig in Turkey while still trying to deal with her depression from her mother’s suicide and her estrangement from her maternal Alabama grandmother Greta (Blythe Danner), which she now discovers was caused by her father (Ernie Lively, her real-life dad–a veteran character actor) hiding from her granny’s letters. The wise head professor (Shohreh Aghdashloo) at the dig site counsels her and Bridget begins coming to terms with her mother’s suicide, as she leaves the dig and visits granny. She’s the only one of her friends without a boyfriend or pursuing one. Lena is an art student at the Rhode Island School of Design where she’s on a scholarship for a summer art course and begins a romantic relationship with a smooth, cocky, and handsome art student and model (Jesse Williams) but finds herself still in love with her more sincere long-distance ex-boyfriend Kostos (Michael Rady)–her first love. But when Lena reunites with him, after they agreed to see others, she discovers he’s married and his wife is expecting. Aspiring writer Tibby must go to summer school at NYU to complete a screenplay assignment for her class. She works part-time as a disgruntled video-store clerk and breaks up with her cute boyfriend Brian McBrian (Leonardo Nam) over a pregnancy scare. Carmen through the connections of her arrogant and untrustworthy Yale drama major classmate Julia (Rachel Nichols), the film’s heavy, starts out working backstage at a theater festival in Vermont where she is surprisingly elevated to lead actress by the instinctive director (Kyle MacLachlan) and has a summer romance with her heartthrob leading man (Tom Wisdom) in their Shakespeare production of The Winter’s Tale. The reluctant actress also must deal with her mom (Rachel Ticotin) having a child with her new husband and with Julia’s attempts to undermine her romance and leading role onstage.

The fantasy episodic film, targeted for female tweens and teens, seems to have run out of charm and what it got by with it in the original seems too tired story wise for this version to effectively work out as well. The series of clichéd romantic dilemmas simply bored me, even though the sweeties still exert an energy and a good chemistry together in pursuit of their trying but enduring friendship. It’s a film that probably will please its targeted viewer more than it did me, as I found that it didn’t talk to me except in banalities and as a reminder that an old pair of broken-in jeans is a keeper that’s worth gushing about.