Notes from the back row 

The pants… the pants…

The Traveling Pants are back. Much like the first kid who could grow a mustache in high school, the Traveling Pants bounce from one teenage girl with an emotional/identity crisis to the next — but the Pants actually solve their problems and teach sugary life lessons whereas the kid with the mustache usually just leaves a trail of disappointment and tear-stained eyeliner.

Maybe they’re not so different after all.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 opened on Wednesday at the Village 8 and, I’ll admit, there was a time when I got into the Pants.

Back in 2005 me and my supermodel girlfriend snuck in to the first Pants after we got out of Mr. & Mrs. Smith and it wasn’t that bad. Sure, a free movie’s a key movie and I was riding a physical and emotional high after two hours of gun-toting Angelina, but I honestly didn’t mind Pants 1. It was pretty obviously aimed at 11-year-old girls but the smart script and solid acting (three of the girls later became bankable stars) salvaged the picture.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is not as good. These days the sisterhood is all grown up (almost), and finishing their first year at upper-tier colleges while dealing with the pains of being nineteen and independent (those pesky leaky condoms). While Pants 2 does continue with the good messages about the costs and rewards of standing up for, and believing in, yourself, the flick is overly simple and the sentiment is really slathered on. All the original actresses were contractually bound to a sequel and their performances lack the zing of the original. A new director, fresh from the music video industry, probably didn’t help things either. It’s long (1h57mins), has way too many musical montages, and the famous, magical pants don’t even play much of a role in the story.

But at least they’re making films aimed specifically at women. This is the fourth big chick flick of 2008 ( Kit Kitteridge, Mamma Mia, Sex and the City) and that is better than most years. Sub-par acting and direction aside, I suppose pre-teen girls will still dig Pants 2 but at least a few will walk out of the theatre and say, “Like, OhMyF’nGawd, that totally BLEW! We shoulda went to that dumb stoner movie with all the boys.”

That dumb stoner movie is Pineapple Express and the life lessons in this one are far more pertinent – don’t leave roaches lying around the scene of a crime or someone will trace it back to you, or at least your dealer.

Seth Rogen plays a schlubby pot smoker who wears disguises to serve subpoenas by day and dates barely legal girls by night. James Franco plays his stay-at-home weed dealer who has many customers but not a lot of friends, so he lets Rogen sample the rare and magnificent ‘Pineapple Express’ strain. Later, after witnessing a major drug murder Rogen leaves a roach of the so-good-it’s-easily-traceable good shit at the scene and soon both dudes are on the run from drug lords and bent coppers, with much bonding, male camaraderie, violent action and killer one-liners following suit.

Pineapple Express is an ‘80s-style action movie with a Jeff Spicoli mentality — early Miami Vice meets Harold and Kumar. T he female presence in this flick is almost nil but producer/comedy king Judd Apatow hired arthouse director David Gordon Green ( All the Real Girls) who brings strong visual and storytelling elements to the stoner comedy. Written by Superbad team Rogen and Evan Goldberg (both from Vancouver) Pineapple Express is a funny, genre-blender of a film about weed that “smells like God’s Vagina” and is so good “it’s almost a shame to smoke it, like killing a unicorn.” What’s not to like about that?

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