Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

Genre: Drama and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: February 16th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Gabor Csupo Actors: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, Kate Butler, Devon Wood

 


 

M

agnificently adapted from the acclaimed Katherine Paterson novel, “Bridge to Terabithia” is an enticing children’s fantasy, full of invention and heartbreak. Outstanding performances by child stars AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson drive the film, which delves into the world of imagination, escape, and the circumvention of unpleasant realities. The staggeringly tragic elements in the film are almost too morose for younger audiences, but they bring meaningful lessons in morality, values, and an acknowledgement for the importance of unlikely friendships.

The fastest kid in the fifth grade, Jess (Josh Hutcherson), reluctantly befriends new student Leslie (AnnaSophia) when they realize they are not only neighbors, but also comparable outsiders in their class. Encountering the typical struggles of elementary school kids, such as bullies and not fitting in, Leslie teaches Jess to use make-believe more frequently to elude whatever unpleasantries he might face. Together they convert a debilitated, abandoned tree-house deep in the forest into their own magical kingdom named Terabithia, which they visit each day to daydream and live out their fantasies as noble rulers of their realm. When catastrophic events disrupt their peaceful play, newfound lessons in believing the impossible help them to overcome utter sorrow.

The two stars, AnnaSophia Robb (from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and Josh Hutcherson (previously from “Zathura”) are simply phenomenal as they authentically embody Paterson’s characters. Their adolescent perspectives are inspirational and memorable, complementing several of the supporting roles, such as their classmates and Josh’s father (Robert Patrick), portrayed with a properly stereotypical attitude. And Zooey Deschanel plays Ms. Edmunds, the music teacher, who humorously creates a love triangle for Jess (following a rather classic formula). This crush provides a touch of complexity for Jess, who, entranced by his teacher, later blames himself for inconsiderately trying to spend time with her as opposed to Leslie.

In the film, Leslie dubs their imaginary kingdom “Terabithia,” which is supposedly a random name devised on the spot. However, one of the aspects the film leaves out – probably to avoid any comparisons to the incredibly popular “The Chronicles of Narnia” series – is that Leslie has read and enjoyed those books, along with other C.S. Lewis stories. And she specifically designs her kingdom around the ground rules set forth in those tales. One of Lewis’ yarns actually contains an island named Terebinthia, which Leslie could have subconsciously borrowed when naming the magical land. Plus, there is a tree found in the bible called a terebinth tree – which means that Lewis may not have been all that original either.

Managing that rare feat of being both a faithful adaptation and appealing on an independent basis, “Bridge to Terabithia” is a worthwhile elementary school-level piece. Most interesting will be the reactions of newcomers unfamiliar with the major twists of the story; it’s difficult to discuss the intricacies without giving away the crux. To that same point, the filmmakers sent out publications and press kits with written pleas to journalists not to give away any of the monumental components – not unlike numerous other projects that hinge on a significant, earth-shattering reveal. The film’s greatest boon might just be its thought-provoking themes and morals that should prove to be easier to watch than to discuss, especially with children.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10