When the first five minutes of a film show us a wedding, a graduation, a pregnancy, some kisses, and two grave sites, followed by a reunion scene involving shrieking and hugging, we know we are in for an irresistible saga of friendship through love, loss, risk, and clothes. What older sisters get in Sex and the City and their moms find in Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias, middle and high schoolers find in the “Traveling Pants” movies.
In the first “Traveling Pants” summer, the four BFFs used a magical pair of blue jeans that somehow fit them all perfectly as a sort of proto-Facebook for staying in touch. They sent the pants back and forth, embroidering status updates with mementos from their adventures.
Three years have gone by and now cynical Tibby (“Joan of Arcadia’s” Amber Tamblyn), athlete Bridget (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively), shy Lena (“Gilmore Girls'” Alexis Bledel), and writer Carmen (“Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrara) are all in college, meaning they now have the kind of problems that raise the rating from the PG for the 2005 original to a PG-13.
The pants are about to get some serious mileage. Tibby is in New York, working at a DVD store and trying to finish a screenplay assignment. “Romantic comedy is an oxymoron,” she complains. Lena is in Rhode Island, blushing through a figure drawing class and trying to forget her first love, Costas. That nude male model she is drawing has a great…smile. Bridget has gone on an archeological dig in Turkey where a sympathetic scholar (Shohreh Aghdashloo) reminds her that it is not only the bones and artifacts we study but the people and their stories. And Carmen finds herself unexpectedly cast in a Shakespeare production in Vermont while at home her recently re-married mother is about to have a baby. As they face a pregnancy scare, repair an estranged family relationship and struggle with romance, the girls must find new resolve and confidence in themselves and in their connection to each other.
The real love story that is the heart of the movie is the friendship of the girls. They wonder at times if they are still able to communicate but they are always there for each other when needed. Like the first film, the sequel is refreshingly honest about complicated and messy problems and it avoids tidy resolutions. The girls learn that sometimes even with the best of intentions, people — and life — let us down but that courage, sincere kindness, and friends can help even when they cannot fix what is wrong. Even more appealing is the girls’ endearingly tender support for each other’s differences of personality and interests and the matter-of-fact mix of racial and ethnic pairings. The movie makes it clear that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, no one can make you feel inadequate without your permission and it is one movie that does not imply that a girl has to have a boyfriend to be successful, happy, or complete.
A character in “Steel Magnolias” summarizes the female friendship genre: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” The talented young actresses and a quartet of appealing swain make this story’s travels between laughter and tears a journey worth taking.
Darby Hinton played Israel, the son of Daniel Boone on the classic 1960’s television series starring Fess Parker. From the moment he got on the phone to talk with me about the series and its new release on DVD he made me feel like we were old friends.
I’m so excited to talk to you! When I told my husband I’d be interviewing you, we both started singing that Daniel Boone theme song!
Did you remember all the words?
Well, maybe not all of them!
You know, when we all got together in honor of the DVD release, we couldn’t get it straight between us.
That makes me feel better! How did you originally get the part?
I got it on kind of a fluke. I thought I was going on an interview for “The Sound of Music. At that time the youngest one was supposed to be a boy so I was dressed in lederhosen. My mother was driving me to the audition and she was always late to everything. She dropped me off to find a parking spot and I went into the building and got into the first line of kids I saw. I went in and met with the producer and everybody and came out of the interview. My mom said, “You were supposed to be upstairs!” and I said, “But whatever that is, I just got it.” I started out as Nathan Boone for the pilot with an older brother, but by the time the show began it was just one son named Israel, and that was me.
I always wanted to be Veronica Cartwright.
It was fun to reconnect with her.
And with Fess Parker, too, I imagine.
I stayed close to Fess Parker. We had a great couple of hours, shooting a documentary on the real Daniel Boone, in the places he really was. It was so much fun to sit down and talk with him, talking about america’s first legend with a current legend. It was a magical moment. And Ed Ames’ voice is still so magical.
Did you have a favorite episode?
A lot of them! I always loved animals, so it was always fun to work with the animals for the show. My mom was an only child with strict German parents so she wanted us to have the pets she did not have. I had my own raccoon, foxes, and snakes, even a wild boar! There was the episode where Israel fell in love and had his first screen kiss. The first time we shot it they said Israel shouldn’t kiss that well so we had to reshoot. A little frontier boy wasn’t supposed to be that well-versed.
Did you know the other television child stars of that era?
I was one of four kids from TV that Art Linkletter brought to Washington, DC for a show called “A Kid’s Eye View of Washington.” We had tours of everything, the Smithsonian, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where I got to shred a million dollars worth of bills. We got to meet Nixon and see the Hope Diamond. Maureen McCormick from “The Brady Bunch” was one of the other kids, but I didn’t rate a mention in her new book!
What television shows did you like when you were a kid?
“To Catch a Thief” — there was nobody cooler, nobody more suave with the ladies than Al Mundy. I once crept onto the set and saw Robert Wagner tied up with his arms around the beautiful girl. He looked over at me and said, “Hey kid, do they treat you this good on your set?” It meant the world that he knew who I was. I also loved “The Wild Wild West.”
The new trailer for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is out!