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No new wrinkles in ‘Traveling Pants 2’

You get the feeling that the makers of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies, as this sequel to the 2005 sleeper hit feels like the Teen People version of an old Hollywood “women’s picture.”

You get the feeling that the makers of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies, as this sequel to the 2005 sleeper hit feels like the Teen People version of an old Hollywood “women’s picture,” the sort of vehicle that kept Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern busy before and during World War II.

The four stars of “Pants” might get to speak more frankly about love and sex than, say, the leads of “Three on a Match,” but this new film is as audience-pleasing and satisfactorily predictable as its cinematic ancestor. Pity that its sprawl overtakes its sparkle.

The titular sisterhood has gone off to college — Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is off at NYU studying filmmaking, Lena (Alexis Bledel) pursues her artistic bent at RISD, Bridget (Blake Lively) attends Brown on a soccer scholarship, and Carmen (America Ferrera) feels isolated at Yale. (I would have loved it if Carmen had befriended Rory, the Yalie Bledel played on “Gilmore Girls,” but that probably would have been too meta for this movie.) Come the summer, Carmen is disappointed to discover that her friends are spending the vacation away from home, so she too decides to pursue activities elsewhere.

Even though the four are starting to grow apart, they continue to share the magical pants that somehow fit all the girls perfectly. Bridget wears them on an archeological dig in Turkey, where the excavation of old bones reminds her of her own familial skeletons in the closet, and then passes them off to Lena, who falls for a hunky figure model and artist (Jesse Williams) while taking a life-drawing class. (They have a meet-cute when he strips down for her first day of class.) What happened to Kostos (Michael Rady, who’s currently playing the object of another teen girl’s affection on the wonderful and under-viewed “Swingtown”), Lena’s lover from the first movie? He got another girl pregnant and had to marry her, breaking Lena’s heart. But don’t count him out just yet.

Meanwhile, Tibby has romance problems of her own, sleeping with her boyfriend Brian (Leonardo Nam) for the first time and then worrying about a broken condom. (The phrase “RU 486” goes unpronounced in this movie.) And Carmen’s surprise vault from backstage crew to Shakespearean leading lady at a Vermont summer theater has her juggling the amorous attentions of her co-star (Tom Wisdom) and the passive-aggressive jealousy of a fellow actress (Rachel Nichols).

If you think all this plot is hard to follow in a review, it’s even trickier while watching the actual movie. Screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler adapted the first of Ann Brashares’ “Traveling Pants” novels for the first movie, but this time she’s working from several of Brashares’ sequels, and the strain shows in the film’s multiple storylines. The friends worry that they’re losing touch with each other, and the audience can empathize, having its own difficulties keeping up with all the personal dramas.

Director Sanaa Hamri (who made the delightful “Something New”) lets the material get away from her at times, but she gets a passel of terrific performances from both her leads and a stellar supporting cast, which includes such old pros as Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kyle MacLachlan and Blythe Danner. Hamri and cinematographer Jim Denault deserve kudos for making the Greek islands look way more gorgeous than they do in the drab “Mamma Mia!”

Female filmgoers who are too young for “Sex and the City” and too old for “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” will get a kick out of “Traveling Pants 2.” Everyone else can wait to watch the globe-trotting foursome in their Netflix queue.