You'll care about each girl.
The only magic realism in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the one, one-size-fits-all pair of jeans worn by four teenage friends, whose summer adventures bring a dose of realism magical only for the insights into life, the pain and pleasure that come in from age seventeen to the end. As a coming-of-age film, this ranks with the best of them for non-condescending, adult-like perceptions, with nary a "like" in the girls' vocabulary.
Two of these lifelong chums have summer romances that transcend the usual sun and sand trifles; the other two deal with even more substantial challenges, ones that involve connecting with family or friends after years of disconnection. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants offers no easy solutions to questions about openness, sexuality, parental neglect, and death. Rather each girl has an epiphany that grows naturally out of the frustrations accompanying inexperience and immaturity.
Love on a Greek island while riding a scooter like Audrey Hepburn through the streets of Rome demands confronting the intrusions of family reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet; love on a beach in Mexico unleashes longing for a parent that goes beyond a beautiful boy; a new life for a parent means the death of an old one for a child; and teen alienation turns to acceptance and even love through the magic of a new friend.
None of these realistic setups for teen enlightenment can make an engaging film unless the actresses are believable, and in Sisterhood each young woman carries her role with deftness and sincerity sometimes not found in the most seasoned actresses. Special recognition should be given to Jenna Boyd as 12-year old Bailey, who believably transforms one teen from misogynist to humanist. This little actress has the chops to win the Oscar someday.
The ten rules of the sisterhood are dominated by the logistical one that states, "You must pass the pants along to your sisters according to the specifications set down by the Sisterhood." FedEx does the delivery; the girls supply the specific adventures that echo the anguish and resilience of being a teen in a society that sometimes doesn't care. You will care for each girl; I guarantee it as if it were a pair of Levis, sturdy and malleable, sexy and comfortable. Come to think of it--that's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.