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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.43%
Just Average: 19.35%
Pretty Crappy: 11.83%
Sucks: 17.2%

7 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Bridge to Terabithia
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by Mel Valentin

"Misleading marketing + cheap plot devices = no sale."
2 stars

Two words: Walden Media. If you don’t know who or what Walden Media is, you should. Founded only six years ago, Walden Media produces family-oriented film, television, publishing and Internet products. Two years ago, Walden Media co-produced (with Disney) and released "The Witch, The Lion, and the Wardrobe," the lucrative first entry in C.S. Lewis’ "The Chronicles of Narnia" franchise. Last fall, Walden Media co-produced another beloved children’s classic, E.B. White’s "Charlotte’s Web." If all that sounds benevolent to you, it shouldn’t. Walden Media has an agenda and it’s not one everyone’s going to agree on, to spread right-wing Christian values through their media properties. That alone makes Walden Media’s latest foray into big-budget, family-oriented filmmaking, "Bridge to Terabithia," an adaptation of Katherine Paterson's Newberry Medal-winning children's novel, immediately suspect.

Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), a put-upon, downtrodden, harried fifth grader, begins the school year with one goal in mind, to become the fastest kid in his class. He’s trained all summer for the “boys only” race and expects to win. Trouble first shows up when he learns that his family can’t afford a new pair of running shoes for him. While Jesse lives on a farm, his father Jack (Robert Patrick) manages the local hardware store to make ends meet while his mother, Nancy (Kate Butler) keeps the household going. Jack cares little for Jesse’s artistic pretensions (Jesse keeps a scrapbook full of his illustrations) and pays more attention to his daughters, Brenda (Devon Wood), Ellie (Emma Fenton), Joyce (Grace Brannigan), and his apparent favorite, May Belle (Bailee Madison).

At school, Jesse has to contend with Janice Avery (Lauren Clinton), a bullying eighth grader and Scott Hoager (Cameron Wakefield), Janice’s male counterpart who harasses Jesse every chance he gets. On the bright side, Jesse has a crush on Ms. Edmonds (Zooey Deschanel), his music teacher. Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), the new kid in town, joins the race at the last second and wins. An unhappy Jesse initially refuses Leslie’s offer of friendship, but their shared status as outsiders, neighbors, and artists (he illustrates, she makes up stories), changes all that. Crossing into a neighboring property via an old rope tied to a tree, Leslie weaves tales about a magical kingdom, Terabithia, with Jesse and Leslie as the king and queen, respectively.

There are several why moviegoers, especially those with small children, should seriously pause before giving Bridge to Terabithia a chance at their local multiplex. Anyone who's read Katherine Paterson’s novel knows that not everyone makes it to the end of the film. The untimely demise of a central character in a third act sets off a barrage of hand wringing, confused looks, furrowed brows, black clothing, tears, and survivor’s guilt. It feels cheap and manipulative, the last refuge of a writer who doesn't know where else to take their characters. That this event apparently had a real-world analog in the Paterson’s life and inspired her to write Bridge to Terabithia doesn't make it less offensive or nonsensical is what's ostensibly a family film. Never fear, though, as faith and, presumably, the "right" beliefs help the survivors move through the grieving process.

Even more pernicious than the untimely demise of a central character is the extremely awkward inclusion of Christianity halfway through the film. After a curious Leslie attends Sunday mass with Jesse's family, Leslie, Jesse, and May Belle (who's not even ten) engage in a theological discussion about heaven and hell (as in who goes where depending on their religious beliefs). The discussion is so poorly scripted, literally coming out of nowhere, that even fundamentalist or evangelical Christians might find objectionable or clumsy (and unlikely to create converts to their religious beliefs). Frankly, putting words and phrases in the mouth of a small child to push any agenda should give anyone pause. It's surprising that the powers-that-be at Walden Media didn't take a more subtle approach, but apparently the word "subtlety" isn’t one powers-that-be are familiar with.

Last, parents expecting and/or hoping to take their children to a The Chronicles of Narnia-style fantasy/action film will be sorely disappointed. The fantasy elements in Bridge to Terabithia are minor at best (and occasionally awful, effects wise). It's difficult to understand why Disney and Walden Media agreed on a deceptive marketing campaign, knowing full well that a backlash could sink Bridge to Terabithia's box office prospects once word got out, pre- or post-release that the Bridge to Terabithia bears little resemblance to The Chronicles of Narnia (final image notwithstanding). Apparently, though, the powers-that-be made a conscious decision that a misleading marketing campaign wouldn't be a problem.

Not surprisingly, "Bridge to Terabithia" isn't a film that this critic can recommend, even under the looser standards that family-oriented films tend to receive. On balance, there's no reason to give "Bridge to Terabithia" a passing grade. Too bad, though, as a game cast, especially the two young leads, Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb offer up persuasive performances. They deserved better from "Bridge to Terabithia." Then again, so did we.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15592&reviewer=402
originally posted: 02/16/07 13:20:50
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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)
  DVD: 19-Jun-2007

  04-May-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Oct-2007

  14-Jun-2007 (PG)

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