I figure I'm about 20 years older, at least, than the target demographic for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. I understand that there are some movies where I'll always feel a little old or out of touch, because they're just not made with me in mind, no matter how good or bad those movies are. Fortunately, I had no trouble empathizing with the four young women who are bound to friendship through their magical bifurcated nether garment -- more so than I did with the Sex and the City gang, who are much closer to my age.

Like Sex and the City, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 works better if you know the characters already through their previous appearances, because you're already emotionally invested in them. I hadn't read the young-adult novels by Ann Brashares, but my sister, who is a big fan, filled me in and we determined that this movie is based mostly on the fourth book in the series, with a few changes, so even if you've read the books you get some surprises. If you haven't seen the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie, the sequel opens with a nice introduction of the characters and summary of events from the previous film, narrated by Carmen (America Ferrera). Carmen's been looking forward to the summer after her first year at Yale, because she will be reunited in her hometown with her three Friends of the Pants: Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Biedel), and Bridget (Blake Lively). They jointly own this pair of really cute jeans, you see, which somehow fits all of them even though they're hardly the same size, so everyone gets to take turns.

It turns out that all four have plans that will keep them from hanging out together, so the pants will have to travel from friend to friend once again. (After all, they're not called Stay-at-Home Pants.) Carmen works in a summer theater camp, where she meets a cute British guy and worries about her pregnant mom. Lena, after a trip to Greece where she learns her ex-boyfriend is unexpectedly married, goes to art school and encounters her first nude drawing class. Bridget travels to Turkey on an archaeological dig, which reminds her of some skeletons in her own family closet, and inspires more personal excavation. Tibby is stuck at home, but she's got her hands full writing a screenplay, working at the video store, and dealing with some difficulties in her romantic life.

As with the first movie, the pants provide the narrative connection between the separate stories of the four young women, allowing for a looser structure that jumps from one location and storyline to another. In one scene, we see Carmen being dragged onstage for an impromptu audition, then we cut to Tibby realizing she might be pregnant, or Bridget uncovering something at the dig site. Then we rush back to Carmen, and perhaps maybe over to Lena, whom we haven't seen in awhile. This took me awhile to get used to, but the stories fit together well enough that it's not too disconcerting. The pants are more like an afterthought this time around, but leap back into action in the third act to reunite the main characters for the final scenes.

Despite the fact that these four young women are bound together by a cute article of clothing that they all love, the characters don't spend a lot of time shopping or talking at length about the outfits they wear or want to wear. All four of them are pursuing creative activities to one degree or another, and several of them are struggling with their family relationships. Romance is also a part of the film, but not the driving force behind these characters' lives. Unfortunately, the career/creativity-related storylines abruptly halt when the movie cranks into gear about the importance of friendship, which is a valid point, but keeps us from resolution or closure on some of the details we've been following with interest (what about Tibby's screenplay?).

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 shows us four characters that we can actually care about, even if they're young enough to be our daughters and sometimes do some dumb or unrealistic things. (I couldn't believe Tibby had never heard of the morning-after pill ... and how do these families afford all these travel expenses?) I simply enjoyed watching these characters, especially Tibby as she rolls her eyes through her crummy summer job and then frets about her relationship problems. The characters feel genuine and add charm to the sappy and unrealistic ending, because you figure they deserve a little enchanting fun. As a little extra delight, Blythe Danner appears in a small but significant role in the second half of the film.

In addition, the movie is very discreet about the adult situations that occur -- we see no nudity, and the one sex sequence is handled with a lot of euphemistic dialogue -- which makes me think younger girls could see it if you were able to discuss some of the issues with them afterwards. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 doesn't offer thrills and suspense and special effects, it's simply a sweet and satisfying time in the company of characters we like and understand, as though we're next in line to open a package and find those pants in our own lives.