Have Book Club, will travel. Vivian, Diane, Carol, and Sharon return for a new adventure in Book Club: The Next Chapter.

After using Zoom – as best they can – to continue their book club during the COVID-19 pandemic, our four best friends finally reunite in person to kick off The Next Chapter. When Vivian (Jane Fonda) reveals her recent engagement and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) unearths the group’s decades-old unrealized plan for a trip to Italy, an idea takes shape. Soon, Vivian, Carol, Diane (Diane Keaton), and Sharon (Candice Bergen) find themselves on a whirlwind bachelorette party/cross-country adventure full of friendship, love, and (of course) Italian wine.

You can’t go wrong with an Italian vacation/ bachelorette party

Book Club: The Next Chapter mines its premise well, sending its leading ladies to explore Rome, Venice, and Tuscany. There, the four drink wine, go shopping, eat pasta, drink more wine, make innuendos about museum statues, lose their luggage, go dancing, get arrested, and did I mention drink wine? In short, it’s everything you want from a lighthearted movie about a girls trip.

Admittedly, The Next Chapter is even less about reading than the first Book Club. (After showing their club meetings continued on Zoom during the pandemic, the plot sort of vaguely ties the concept of looking for signs in life to recently reading The Alchemist. But that’s where this movie’s ties to literature end.) But as anyone who’s ever been in a good book club knows… well, they’re only ever kind of about the book, anyway. It’s more about the people you’re meeting with. And Book Club 2 remembers to keep its core relationships front and center throughout the film.

Endearing relationships make for a charming watch

The driving force of Book Club: The Next Chapter is of course its relationships. Vivian, Diane, Carol, and Sharon’s friendship takes center stage as they embrace their new experiences across Italy. The four have great chemistry, and it’s easy to believe they’ve been friends for decades. Whether they’re hyping each other up while trying on designer clothes or offering some much-needed “tough love” advice, watching them will make you smile and reflect on the most important friendships in your own life.

And though the friendship between the core four leads the story, The Next Chapter is also about romance, with each of the four women exploring and expanding their relationships with the men in their lives throughout the course of the film. Sharon, the single lady of the group, gets to be romanced by strangers. Carol encounters an old flame, while simultaneously worrying about losing her husband. Vivian and Diane, both in committed relationships, bring differing views about marriage that weave together to sway the film’s conclusion.

The result is a story that reminds us no matter where we are in life, the people we care about most will ground us and bring us together.

The Next Chapter is even better than the last

Look, Book Club: The Next Chapter may not be the kind of film that’s going to win an Oscar, but it’s got an undeniable (though cheesy) sort of charm. Even when the story cuts corners or a joke doesn’t land, you give it a little grace. It’s the definition of a feel-good movie: easy to watch, with a guaranteed happy ending for everyone. Actually, relaxed from its “Book Club” premise, I even enjoyed The Next Chapter more than the original film. Grab your girlfriends and the wine, and you’re in for a good time.

Book Club: The Next Chapter premieres in theaters May 12.