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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.43%
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Pretty Crappy: 11.83%
Sucks: 17.2%

7 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Bridge to Terabithia
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by Peter Sobczynski

"These Kids Today With Their Wacky Mystical Worlds And Whatnot . . ."
3 stars

“Bridge to Terabithia,” the big-screen adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s much-loved and award-winning 1977 children’s book, is a hymn to the power of imagination that has unfortunately lost a large amount of that very element in the transition from the printed page to the silver screen. A tale that reminded kids that they could create elaborate fantasy worlds to rival anything in the movies or television with no limits other than the ones in their minds has been transformed into another FX-heavy enterprise in which the behind-the-scenes tech wizards have done all the dreaming for the audience in advance. To be fair, they have done it as well as one might have hoped but they never get around the inescapable fact that this is one of those stories that probably should have just been left on the page.

Josh Hutcherson stars as Jesse, who, as the film opens, is one unhappy fifth grader. He is the middle of five siblings (all girls but him) and is thus doomed to a life of little attention and plenty of hand-me-downs. His dad (Robert Patrick), struggling to keep things afloat, has little time for him other than to gruffly announce new chores. At school, he is the target of a couple of tenacious bullies and has a hopeless crush on music teacher Ms Edmonds (completely understandable as she is played by Zooey Deschanel). The only thing he has going for him is his facility for running and even that is cruelly taken away from him on the first day of school when he loses a footrace to the new kid in school. Worse than that, the new kid is a girl, Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), and if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that she is his new next-door neighbor and wants to be friends despite her obliviousness to the embarrassment she caused him in front of the entire class.

Nevertheless, it turns out that the two do have a couple of things in common–both have big imaginations (he draws and she writes) and both are picked on by bullies (hers is a fearsome girl who seems to have been genetically programmed to play the evil gym teacher in a future remake of “Porky’s”)–and they quickly become friends. One day, while playing in the woods behind their houses, they begin conjuring up an elaborate fantasy world called Terabithia filled with giant tree creatures, fearsome hedgehog-like monsters and other assorted otherworld flora and fauna. Before long, they are spending all their time in Terabithia as a refuge from the unpleasantness of the real world. Most of the time, this works but one day, an event so terrible occurs that not even the powers of Terabithia may be enough to help get through it.

Like I said, I can see how “Bridge to Terabithia” could work on the page because the scenes depicting the kids playing in their imaginary world allowed the reader to fill in the blanks regarding the details of what they were doing and what they were encountering. That is easy enough to pull off in a book but in the more literal-minded medium of film, that ambiguity is gone and when we see them fighting off creatures resembling higher-tech versions of the giant rats from “Food of the Gods,” we are actually seeing them battling these creatures in the flesh instead of seeing them conjuring them up in their minds. I know that on some level, we are supposed to assume that they are still making all these things up and we are sharing their visions but when a monster knocks one of them backwards about 20 feet, the illusion of creating illusions disappears and it becomes just another fantasy about little kids defeating big monsters. I don’t know why the producers decided on this approach but I can speculate on at least one reason. The people who made this film, Walden Media, are also those behind “The Chronicles of Narnia” and I suspect that they decided to ratchet up the special effects in an effort to make it seem more like that film in order to attract the audiences that lined up for that one. From a financial standpoint, I guess it makes sense but from an artistic one, it is a decision that robs the story of much of what presumably made it so special to readers in the first place.

I have two other serious quibbles with the film as well and since they deal with specific plot points, those who are unfamiliar with the story are advised to skip the next two paragraphs. At one point, Jesse and Leslie have had enough of the girl bully and devise a nasty trick in order to get back at her by humiliating her. This is a really nasty trick, however, and when they pull it off, the girl is not merely embarrassed–she is crushed and humiliated to a degree that even her former victims realize that they have gone too far and Leslie volunteers to talk to her in order to own up to what they did and apologize. This is an interesting idea–especially since the trick they devise is one that you can easily see someone pulling without fully considering the consequences–and I wanted to see what transpires during this talk. However, we never get to see that scene–Leslie just tells Jessie later that everything is fine and the bully winds up acting friendly towards them. Granted, this is only a minor sidebar incident in the film but since it touches on issues that all kids can relate to, I wish that the film, having introduced it, had developed it a little further.

Then there is the big plot development that occurs about two-thirds of the way through the film–one that is not at all hinted at in the ads and about which I cannot say anything except to suggest that parents should be ready to field some potentially uncomfortable questions from younger viewers. Once again, I do not object to the presence of this particular curveball–it adds an extra level of realism that isn’t often seen in kid-oriented films–but it doesn’t jibe very easily with the overstuffed effects sequences. Again, I suspect that this aspect probably worked better in the book but director Gabor Csupo (making his live-action debut after working on such animated projects as “Rugrats” and “The Wild Thornberrys”) never quite finds a way to make it pay off in a completely satisfying way.

I don’t want to completely rag on “Bridge to Terabithia”–its heart is in the right place, the performances from the two kids are reasonably endearing (as is Zooey Deschanel in her supporting turn as the kind of teacher we all wish we had in the fifth grade) and it is more ambitious than the typical kid-oriented fare that is designed to do little more than sell toys. The problem is that it is trying to tell a particular story by utilizing a medium that simply isn’t suited for it. Oftentimes when I review a film based on an acclaimed children’s book, I will suggest that parents would be better off spending the money on buying a copy of the book and reading it to their kids. In this case, such a move is not only suggested, it is almost required.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15592&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/16/07 00:37:52
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User Comments

8/15/10 bored mom Unneeded film adaptation. There are better escapes to fantasy, in real books and videogames 3 stars
10/11/09 80s Angel a simply wonderful movie. 4 stars
3/18/09 Anonymous. the book is good & this is good too. :] 4 stars
1/25/09 Fan Its based on a true story MEL you idiot! 5 stars
7/08/08 mist David Cornelius gets everything right about whats wrong with this movie, its bad 1 stars
6/18/08 tiger too many children 1 stars
5/09/08 molly x an amazing film that made me cry 5 stars
5/02/08 Karrie Millheim I did not like this movie, I thought it was going to be so much different than it was 2 stars
4/20/08 Isabel I was told this compared with "Pan's Labyrinth". Not even close in interest and complexity 2 stars
4/09/08 Brandy Loved the book as a child. Thought this was pretty good. 4 stars
2/15/08 daveyt poo 1 stars
2/12/08 Katherine W. Apparently someone didn’t read the book. 4 stars
2/07/08 ROANN POT 5 stars
1/21/08 Al Toons Good Flick, Figures she disses God, another atheist, Roe topic against the "empire" of God 1 stars
1/12/08 jenny David Cornelius is a big fool.jus fire him from his job.awesome movie for everyone 5 stars
1/11/08 Jason Good movie but marketed improperly. Not for young kids, maybe for 8-13 3 stars
1/02/08 Justin P I cried like a little baby. It was really good. 5 stars
12/08/07 Melanie Loved it. It opens your eyes up to how those less fortunate kids live. Really sad 5 stars
11/02/07 mike dirty marketing. this is no narnia. its just a tragedy. im pissed off 1 stars
9/13/07 Slicer Fifteen minutes into it, I walked out. This movie ROYALLY SUCKS on a fundamental level. 1 stars
8/24/07 Jeff A fine movie, mature and engaging. The reviewer will think more of it when older, I'd bet. 5 stars
8/13/07 armin good movie..reay sad but become happy at the end, al otgether good movie 5 stars
8/12/07 deedee David Cornelius, there must be a black hole where your heart should be! A beautiful film. 5 stars
8/02/07 Greg B This belongs in a 4th grade school room period. Waste of 3D effects. Waste of time. 1 stars
7/17/07 Jordan Boone The movie has plenty of heart and creativy and shows that David Cornelius is an idiot. 5 stars
7/07/07 Tracey Chambers good movie for older kids. younger kids may get to upset. 3 stars
7/06/07 Wildbluesun That rare thing - a children's film with a brain. 5 stars
6/25/07 khailan I luv this movie because i was in bridge to teribathia and i got to meet josh and annasophi 5 stars
6/23/07 action movie fan okay kids movie-nothing like lord of the rings though 3 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Misguided direction highlights fantasy, hinders admirably mature moments. 3 stars
6/08/07 Stephanie Throckmorton Right, EricD, doesn't "manhandle" viewer's heart, unlike the book, which DOES! 3 stars
6/08/07 Lynne O'Leahy-Cassid More palatable than the book; yet lovers of the book probably wouldn't like it. 3 stars
5/24/07 leon richardson it's great until AnnaSophia Robb died then it goes down hill from there 3 stars
5/23/07 Jessica Childress If it is really out to spread "right-wing Christian values" I should like it much better! 3 stars
5/14/07 vicky fabulous multi-dimensional meanings to this film-for adults not kids 5 stars
4/24/07 Tiffany Losco sad, I took my 4 yearold. She kept asking me why? why? 4 stars
4/14/07 pat Ouch! I went out for a sweet fantasy film and came home angry because I ruined my eye makeu 2 stars
4/11/07 rimrhino This was a great flick; I cried, and I'm one of those "manly men" Todd mentioned! 5 stars
3/25/07 gary i go to a disney movie to escape.. this film made me want to escape the theatre 3 stars
3/21/07 ES Wow, powerful moments and some real life lessons 4 stars
3/13/07 Cire Alleraccav This movie will make any kid with a heart cry -- and think -- for all the right reasons! 5 stars
3/11/07 Kevin unremarable 5 stars
3/08/07 Martin Visaully, it's well made, but that's all it has, the rest is just sh@t 1 stars
3/05/07 Robin Hudspeth The trailer posed this as a kid's movie with magical animation. Not! A tragedy - Ol Yeller! 3 stars
3/04/07 --- Previews very misleading-if you're looking for Narnia type film you'll be disappointed 1 stars
3/03/07 Justin Imagination? Where? Fun? Where? RIP OFF 2 stars
2/26/07 bob ok,sad 4 stars
2/21/07 paddysixpack unbelievably brilliant 5 stars
2/18/07 Patrick Knapp I took my 9 yr. old son to see it. His first words on hitting the exit..."What a gyp." 2 stars
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  16-Feb-2007 (PG)
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  14-Jun-2007 (PG)

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