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7 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Bridge to Terabithia
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by Todd LaPlace

"No snarky quote this time. It’s simply fantastic."
5 stars

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think Walden Media, the production company behind “Bridge to Terabithia” exists to promote the Christian ideal. For starters, its CEO, Cary Granat (seriously, that’s his name), is Jewish, or at the very least, his grandfather is a rabbi, which I suspect does have an impact on his beliefs. I do, however, believe they are promoting an even more dangerous philosophy. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Granat said, “One of the main reasons I left Dimension was because we were making cynical films…Walden is the opposite.” How dare you threaten to remove the cynicism from my movies! How dare you try to infect me with your wholesome morals and kids lit adaptations! I might be convinced to let it slide, just this one, but only if you promise to continue making movies are spectacular as “Terabithia.” Like the quote says, it’s simply fantastic.

Despite what the Disney marketing department would have you believe, director Gabor Csupo’s “Bridge to Terabithia” is not “Narnia 2.” There is no portal to a magical land full of allegorical lions. There are no forlorn fawns waiting to find a new friend. And it certainly isn’t overrun by a tyrannical witch bent on enslaving all of its inhabitants. Actually, Terabithia has no physical presence whatsoever; it’s considerably simpler than that. It exists solely in the imagination of its two heroes, fifth-graders Jesse (Josh Hutcherson) and Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb). Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Disney, as the film’s trailer suggests that swinging across a creek is enough to enter a fantastic new world of adventure and fantasy. If you were going to liken it to anything, though, it would be accurate to call it the family version of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” It’s simply a coming-of-age story about two kids who escape into fantasy to escape their real problems and nothing more. The sad thing is there’s no need to jazz it up with tricky promotions; “Bridge to Terabithia” is an emotional, brilliant, soulful piece of art that far exceeds its humble “family film” beginnings.

Jesse is something of a social outcast, even in his own house. His father (Robert Patrick) barely notices his existence, doting on his four sisters instead, and after training all summer for a race among the fifth grade boys, his mom (Kate Butler) throws away his ratty sneakers, forcing him to wear a pair of his older sister’s pink hand-me-downs. To make matters worse, his title as the fastest in the fifth grade is stolen when new kid Leslie jumps in and bests them all. Leslie is also immediately deemed an outcast when she reveals that her family doesn’t own a TV. The next-door neighbors eventually bond, though, over their imaginative artistic sensibilities, expressed through his art and her writing, which allows them to eventually create Terabithia, a world of their own, free of family pressures and school bullies, where they are allowed to be the king and queen, hero and heroine.

Much like the underground world inhabited by fauns, faeries and demons in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” we’re not necessarily supposed to see Terabithia as a real place. Finding an old tree house in a section of woods inhabited only by squirrels, the pair refurbishes it, turning into their palace and stronghold against the villainous demons masquerading as those squirrels. But while it’s not really a palace — it’ll always be just a tree house — it’s still their sanctuary from the mess and awkwardness that comes from being a preteen. It’s the only place where they can truly be themselves, which eventually starts to manifest elsewhere in their lives.

Parents should be cautioned, however, that while “Terabithia” is a magnificent film, the picture eventually sheds the happy exterior, as a tragic turn sets up a dark final act. But if my screening is any indication, it’s not the kids that will be hit hardest by the twist. Among the adult audience, there was barely a dry eye in the entire place (which includes at least a few manly men). Don’t make the mistake of lumping this picture in with the typical gutless family fare; even without the tragedy, the film is surprisingly mature with that special kind of mass appeal that so many other movies near get near. The tragedy, though, is what will eventually make this film a timeless classic, just like the book on which it’s based. That’s actually a strange sentence to write about a cinematically-adapted kids book, especially when “Terabithia” is just the latest book to be adapted by Walden Media, whose track record is certainly less than stellar. Their adaptation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was certainly beautiful (and a money maker), but the same can’t be said for the film versions of “How to Eat Fried Worms,” “Hoot” and “Charlotte’s Web,” among others. Much of the credit, I suspect, is owed to co-screenwriter David Paterson, who (along with Jeff Stockwell) adapted the story from his mother Katherine’s award-winning book. In addition to having a family connection, David is intimately interwoven with “Terabithia,” as a tragedy he suffered as a child served as the inspiration for the story. Katherine wrote it in attempt to help comfort her grieving child, which may be why David did such a faithful job adapting it. It honestly is his story.

I must admit that my familiarity with Hutcherson and Robb before watching “Terabithia” was sketchy at best. I technically saw Hutcherson as he made a five-second appearance at the start of “American Splendor” and saw him again in the good, but sappy “Little Manhattan.” I skipped Robb’s other Walden Media movie (“Because of Winn-Dixie”), largely because it also co-starred crappy musician/ditzy sorority girl magnet/possible incubus Dave Matthews. Perhaps that is why I was pleasantly surprised by the maturity of these two, who successfully pull of the playful, yet meaningful friendship at the heart of “Terabithia.” I suspect that both Hutcherson, acting beneath a generic exterior and a permanent look of frustration, and Robb, whose saucer eyes make her look like she actually belongs in an anime, will eventually mature into A-listers, as they are simply too talented to be wasted in dreck. Perhaps both can model their future careers after costar Zooey Deschannel, who continues to prove her talent with a strong supporting role as the kids’ music teacher and object of Jesse’s first crush.

As the creator of Nickelodeon shows “Rugrats” and “The Wild Thornberrys,” Csupo has plenty of experience with two-dimensional animation, and with “Terabithia,” he proves that he’s just as adept at CGI. Unlike films such as “Narnia,” which assault you with grandiose landscapes, Csupo has kept his film simple, which better bridges the gap between the film’s fantasy and reality. With the exception of one scenic shot, Terabithia is simply the woods near their houses, with occasional appearances by insect warriors, those evil squirrel-like demons (known as Squorges) and a giant that bears a striking resemblance to the local eighth grade bully. Instead of overwhelming, these little flourishes merely enhance the fantastic story that skillfully blends both worlds of reality and Terabithia. I simply can’t stop praising this movie enough. It should easily be one of the best films of the year.

Even though Walden isn’t promoting a Christian agenda, Katherine Paterson is a Christian and there are elements that snuck into both the book and the film. Midway through the movie, Leslie goes to church with Jesse’s family and they talk about believing in the Bible and being damned to hell and all that. It’s an awkward little scene that probably should have gotten cut, simply for being out of sync with the movie. But no matter what you believe, this movie isn’t going to start a rush of conversions. It’s not necessarily trying to promote the Christian ideal or anything of the sort. It’s simply there, just as it is in real life, and no one should let something as silly as that stop them from seeing a truly amazing picture.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15592&reviewer=401
originally posted: 03/11/07 00:47:49
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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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