THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 — ** 1/2 — Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, brief sex, nude art, brief drugs); Century Sandy and South Salt Lake; Cinemark Jordan Landing; Megaplex District, Gateway and Jordan Commons

Early on in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," one of the characters wonders whether the seemingly mystical pair of dungarees might have lost their magic.

As it turns out, he was right to do so. This second installment feels a little stale and forced. In fact, if it weren't for the charming performances of stars America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn, the film might have been pretty bad.

This sequel to the 2005 hit adapts Ann Brashares' fourth novel in the popular series, skipping the second and third books entirely (that's probably a wise choice, since it's been three years and the actresses are getting too old to play teens).

The four best friends have graduated from high school and are spending a subsequent summer apart. Tibby (Tamblyn) is trying to juggle her film-school studies and a committed relationship with her longtime boyfriend, Brian (Leonardo Nam).

Bridget (Blake Lively) is in the Middle East on an archeological dig. And the artistically talented Lena (Alexis Bledel) still pines for her Greek fisherman, Kostas (Michael Rady). Unfortunately, he's engaged to another woman. So she's now dating a hunky art model and would-be artist named Leo (Jesse Williams).

Meanwhile, Carmen (Ferrera), is a bit annoyed with her mother (Rachel Ticotin), who has remarried and is pregnant. So at the behest of a classmate (Rachel Nichols), Carmen has joined a summer theater camp program.

Of these story threads, only two of them really hold our interest — the ones dealing with Tibby and Carmen. The romantic predicaments of Lena are pretty dull, while director Sanaa Hamri and screenwriter Elizabeth can't decide what to do with Lively's character.

(Even a subplot about Bridget meeting her maternal grandmother, played by Blythe Danner, feels a little half-hearted.)

All that being said, when Ferrera and Tamblyn are center stage, the film does hold our interest.

"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" is rated PG-13 for vulgar sexual references and some other suggestive talk, scattered profanity, brief sexual contact, glimpses of nude drawings, and brief drug references. Running time: 117 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com