Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel. Fantasy/Adventure. Written by Jeff Stockwell. Directed by Gabor Csupo.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on the popular Newbery Award-winning novel by Katerine Paterson, Bridge To Terabithia is a fantasy/adventure story of friendship, family and the power of imagination from the producers of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is an outsider at school and even in his own family. Eleven-year-old Jess has trained all summer to become the fastest kid in his middle school class but his goal is unexpectedly thwarted by the new girl in school, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) who competes in the "boys only" race and wins.
Despite their awkward introduction, the two outsiders quickly become best friends. Leslie loves to tell stories of fantasy and magic. Jess loves to draw, but until he met Leslie it was something he kept to himself. Leslie opens a new world of imagination for Jess. Together they create the secret kingdom of Terabithia, a magical place only accessible by swinging on an old rope over a stream in the woods near their homes. There, the friends rule the kingdom, fight the Dark Master and his creatures and plot against the school bullies.
PREVIEW REVIEW: The first great film of 2007, Bridge To Terabithia is a creative parable for young and old. Once again, Disney Studios and Walden Media have combined their talents to offer a motion picture that entertains while reestablishing the lost art of parable telling.
Director Gabor Csupo (Rugrats Go Wild, The Wild Thornberrys the Movie) keeps the pacing lively and involving while addressing subjects that range from preteen angst to appreciating what and who you have. Young Josh Hutcherson is introspective and sincere, while AnnaSophia Robb, also effective in Because of Winn-Dixie, lights up the screen with her smile and visionary nature. As for the special effects, they serve the story rather than domineer it. We get caught up in the action without being diverted by its technical magic.
Like most films that address mature precepts, Bridge To Terabithia should not be mistaken for a giddy kiddie matinee. It receives the PG rating because of thematic elements that include bullying, a parent unable to show affection, feelings of being overshadowed and unloved, and the death of a friend. The film contains some spooky imagery and the narrative jolts us with the discovery that a main character has suddenly died. On the surface, these subjects may seem dark, but these truisms concerning fears and death may help young audience members cope with similar concerns, while reminding us older moviegoers to not let a good word go unsaid, a good deed go undone.
At one point, Robbs character, unfamiliar with church going, cant grasp the concept that God would send a soul to Hell. Her young companions clumsily attempt to explain the religious notion, while she simply sees God as too busy creating and sharing the wonders of nature to ever dwell on mankinds disobedience. Im sure the scene will raise the eyebrow of many a church deacon, but I thought the scene was wisely handled in that it reminds us to teach little ones about Gods love. The concept of the Creators justice confuses even biblical scholars and probably should be shared with ones progeny when theyre a little nearer the accountable age. After all, who would want their six-year-old to say to a fatherless friend, Your daddy went to Hell because he didnt know Jesus?
There are some scary imaginary forest creatures the leads see as real, but these hostile beings serve as symbolic metaphors that represent misconceptions and unknowns. That may sound high-minded, but I believe kids will associate these monsters with their own fears and frustrations. That said, Mom or Dad should be in attendance in order to reassure.
Youll hurt over the loss of the films important character, but youll be uplifted by the leads journey of discovery. These mature elements may not sit well with very little children, but I expect the themes will draw out a robust discussion between parent and older child during the drive home. And isnt it fun when a film does that?