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Bridge to Terabithia (review)

Oh my god. Oh my god. Do kids know this story? They must know — this is apparently based on a “beloved” book, which means that kids must know it, right? Oh, devastating, devastating and lovely and bittersweet and entirely wonderful, this enchantingly old-fashioned movie about the power of friendship and imagination and art and learning and expanding one’s horizons. Jess (Josh Hutcherson: RV) is a lonely preteen boy with too many sisters and a dad (Robert Patrick: We Are Marshall) he wishes weren’t so distant, and then his life is transformed by his new neighbor and classmate, Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), who weirdly has no TV and writes fiction for fun and introduces Jess to the marvels of living in your head and playing with the mind’s eye as they invent the fantastical kingdom of Terabithia deep in the woods behind their houses. But don’t misunderstand, fellow adults who don’t know this book at all: this is not a fantasy story but a story about how fantasy transports us, and also a painfully grounded tale of the stripping away of naivete that is adolescence, and how heartbreakingly excruciating an experience that can be.

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MPAA: rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • http://www.freewebs.com/jurgan6 Jurgan

    Wait, are you saying this movie was actually good? Having read and loved the book, I’ve been dreading it for months. The ads all make it look like the fantasy world is real, rather than something in their imaginations. Even if it is just imagination come to life, I wonder why they felt the need to include such fancy CGI effects. Was it just to attract the short attention span crowd? The book never went into great detail about the fantastic goings-on in Terabithia. It was more a back-drop for their real lives, yet the ads haven’t even shown any of their real lives. I don’t know, I’m just bothered by the notion that they seemed to feel the need to suck people in by making it look like a high-adventure fantasy movie. It seems like the focus was on making the fantasy come to life, when it should be on the characters. I don’t see why they even needed to show what they were imagining at all- why not leave it in the imaginations of the audience as well?

  • http://www.trulymovingpictures.org Lisa

    What a great take on this adaptation; it’s easy to lose a book’s essence when it’s put on the screen, but I think we’d both agree that they did a great job with Bridge. (Having the author’s son as the screenwriter probably didn’t hurt any!)

    Did you know that Bridge to Terabithia won a Truly Moving Picture award? Truly Moving Picturse are movies that unlock the vast potential of the human spirit, enable us to view stories that display courage, integrity and hope, and take entertainment to a higher level. It’s actually the first film to win the distinction in 2007.

    There’s a whole list of films recognized as Truly Moving Pictures, if you’d like to see what else is as impresseive as Bridge to Terabithia; I’d recommend “Amazing Grace” that comes out next week. It’s…well…amazing!

    Thanks, and happy movie-going!
    Lisa

  • Jennifer

    I’ve got the same concerns as Jurgan…I’m a complete fantasy geek, but seeing fantastical things swooping about in the preview for THIS story disappoints me terribly. I haven’t read it since I was about ten, so I don’t remember many details about it, and I’ll hold off on rereading until I give the movie the best chance I can. It’s probably the only book that I read around then that I even halfway liked, but never read again. Even the memory of the impact it had on me then, with hardly any actual plot points, is making me teary.

  • MaryAnn

    The ads are indeed misleading: the fantasy world exists nowhere except in the kids’ imaginations. But I do understand why the filmmakers felt the need to show us a bit of what the kids are “seeing.” The CGI does not dominate, though, and anyone who goes into this film expecting another *Chronicles of Narnia* is going to be disappointed.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/jurgan6 Jurgan

    That’s what worries me- kids are going to be expecting Narnia or Harry Potter and get something completely different. As a result, they won’t like it, when they might have liked it if they had had different expectations. It also seems to me like the CGI dumbs it down some. There actually was a Terabithia movie years ago- I haven’t seen it, but from what I understand, it did not feel the need to show the kids’ imaginations. The studio execs are probably right that they’re more likely to fill seats with high-adventure scenes than with touching human interaction, but I wish they were wrong.

  • MaryAnn

    Well, just because the film isn’t what kids are expecting it would be doesn’t automatically mean they’ll hate it. Not that I’m defending misleading marketing…

  • bats

    Some of the reviewers at Ain’t It Cool News are giving this high marks for it being an excellent adaptation of the book, making the same comments as you and the commenters here are doing. I’d never heard of the book (I’m 49, so this evidently came after my ‘juvenile fiction’ phase, even though I have occasional returnes to that). I think I’m looking forward to both the film and the book.

  • Robert

    Not about the review, but the ad for “Worst Of Britney” videos followed by the “viewed at a semipublic screening..” tag gave cause for a mild snicker.

  • http://www.ordinarycharm.blogspot.com Sherry Fraley

    Heard an NPR interview with Paterson, the author, and her son, the author of the screenplay. The story was initially inspired by an event in said son’s life. Also saw the movie and can concur that the fantasy world is woven into the movie in such a way that it’s clear the children are imagining together. In this imaginary story land they share, they find true companionship,and refuge from the hard realities of family and school bullies; but their adventures and the way they come to believe in each other in this “fantasy-land” also result in developing their characters and courage,and the boy becomes less the victim of his circumstances.

  • http://birchandmaple.blogs.com Orodemniades

    I can’t believe they made this into a movie. It’s a fantastic book, one I remember from my own childhood. However, I think it’ll be quite a shock to those who bring their kids to see it, and, well, watch it without knowing…it’s a little like Serenity, with that big ol’ surprise.

    Can’t wait to see it, myself.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    Actually I was quite shocked to see a VHS version of this movie in a local independent video store around last Christmas–until I realized that the VHS movie in question was an earlier version of this same story.

  • Jennifer Vandiver

    I had never read the book, but the movie was great. It was so real-the school, the houses, the clothes. I got the impression that if I went to that place in Virginia, the people would dress and live in those same clothes and in those same houses. The 2 kids who have the main roles are great-filled with childlike wonder but with that underlying intensity that makes actors really good. I loved it.

  • Nadeem Ghafoor

    To all those concerned (understandably) about the fantasy / cgi laden trailer, rest assured you may lay your fears to rest. This was a wonderful surprise to someone who, admittedly, has never read the book. Myself and my sister went with my 9 year-old niece and we all absolutely loved it. The fantasy effects are, well, to be honest they are minimal, and wonderfully blended so it is clear that you are seeing Terabithia as the children imagine it.

    The loss, protrayed most tenderly, is simply heartbreaking – there wasn;t a single dry eye in the theatre. A wonderful, wonderful movie… The two children actors in this are clearly going to be ones to watch over the next few years.

  • Jason

    My 2 daughters & I went into the theatre not knowing anything about the book and expecting to see ‘narnia2′ like we were promised in the trailers. What we got was so much better than I was expecting!
    A truly moving and wonderful movie about friendship, alienation, loss and the importance of keeping an open mind. I thought that my kids wouldn’t have enjoyed this kind of movie but they absolutely loved it. My 8 year old was in floods by the end.
    It was so refreshing to see this kind of film aimed at children. It’s a shame they had to resort to lieing in the marketing to get people to see it but it worked…

  • clark

    i am a young boy who went to see this movie hoping to see a movie with a beautiful fantasy world which two kids stummble apon.Insted i see a horrible traumatising movie which almost made me cry how can you make the adverts without mentioning that it was horrible! the writers should feel ashamed of themselves as they have mislead so many poor children to be forever traumatised.

  • MaryAnn

    You are a young boy, Clark? You use words like “traumatized” like a grownup, as in: “forever traumatized.”

    Here’s another big grownup word: Hyperbole.

  • Michelle

    Yes, shame on these film makers for making a movie on real life events that has misleading CGI imagery! All fantasy films should be like Disney flicks; sugar-coated and warm and fuzzy. Just steer clear of those German Fairy Tales, or the ones written by a certain Hans Christian Andersen or those dreadful Brothers Grimm.

  • MaryAnn

    Hell, Disney once traumatized kids by killing Bambi’s mother. We all managed to survive that with fairly intact psyches. I have no doubt today’s kids will be just fine after the nightmare of this film.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    I loved this movie. I was surprised how moved I was by it.

  • Mal

    This movie was just pathetic, I mean when you watch the trailers of this, you suddenly think. “Oh, another Chronicles of Narinia movie!” But when you actually have to cough up the money to see this film. Your not only going to want a refund, your going to want to take that refund and pay some friggin midget to punch you in the sac for the same experience.

    Honestly the beautiful graphics they worked so hard to put in this god awful film wasn’t even worth it.
    The Acting was okay to me but the real nut cracker in this movie was when they writters suddenly decided,” Hey lets add some drama and kill off the only interesting character we have!”

    The only good part about this movie and hold on to your horses cause this is a major spoiler!!!

    THE END.

    Normally I allow people to live in their own fantasy world, thinking “Hey this movie wasn’t so bad!” but after seeing this garbage and hearing the reviews of how great this was.. nu uh. Time for some good old fashion reality check people!

  • http://www.dubhsidhestudios.com bonnie-ann black

    Mal: it is polite to put the Spoiler disclaimer at the beginning of your email, not towards the end, *after* having said the spoiler.

    also, you must have some seriously sensitive genitals since your every reaction to the movie involves them. you should get that checked.

  • amanohyo

    Sorry about the necro post, but woah! My local library finally got a copy of this and MA’s review is right on the money. It feels contrived in places to an adult, but by kids’ movie standards it’s surprisingly subtle and well-written. Most importantly, it’s accurate in its depiction of childish behavior and doesn’t beat you over the head with corny themes and morals (*cough* Narnia). I wish more movies trusted kids’ (and adults’) reasoning capabilities instead of talking down to them and then repeatedly slapping them upside the head with oversimplified dogma about good vs. evil.

    It does a nice job of blending the imaginary world and real one together, and the child actors are all excellent, especially Bailee Madison as the younger sister. I even had a few Totoro flashbacks which is high praise for any movie. The final scene did feel a little forced, but all in all, surprisingly well made and I’m glad I checked it out.. (from the library… get it?). As an adult who likes movies that have fantastic elements, I enjoyed this movie more than Pan’s Labyrinth which is stronger visually but has a weaker, more stretched narrative that’s hurt by the stylistic decision to use shallow “fairy-tale” characters. This movie fleshed out the characters instead of the visuals, and is much more emotionally involving (and stronger overall IMO) as a result. Definitely makes me wish someone had suggested the book to me when I was a youngster.

  • jtt

    This comment isn’t so much about the movie itself (which I loved, by the way), but rather is directed to the guy who thinks that Disney movies are all warm and fuzzy. I’m not sure that guy has even seen a classic Disney movie. Remember, Bambi’s mother was shot by hunters. “Pinocchio” featured scenes of boys being kidnapped and sold into slavery as donkeys (this surprises people when I mention it, but watch the movie again). Snow White is poisoned by an apple. “The Fox and the Hound” has childhood friends who are trained to kill each other. “The Secret of NIMH” (not sure that was Disney, though) is a really dark movie that takes place in a mental institution. Cinderella is by every legal definition an abused and neglected child. The whole point of classic Disney movies is to show suffering, but also to show that there is life and hope that transcends suffering. Terabithia is EXACTLY what Disney movies used to be!

  • JoshDM

    Cartoon Network showed this over the weekend. What the hell, Cartoon Network? Don’t show live action on your channel that is named CARTOON Network.

    Anyway, I cried.

  • thomskis

    Not sure if that was entirely necessary. Besides, i agree with the boy. This movie did not earn the right.