Bridge to Terabithia Review
Made by Walden Media, who brought us the recent films of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia is an attempt to hark back to a simpler, less violent, more magical kind of children’s entertainment. As such it succeeds in part, though I suspect its main appeal might be to adults with memories of having their heads in the clouds at school.
Ten-year-old Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is just such a kid. The only boy among five children, he’s picked upon at school. But then he meets the tomboyish Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), who has just moved in next door. The two soon become firm friends. Jess has a talent for drawing while Leslie is a born storyteller, and in days spent in secluded woodland they create the Kingdom of Terabithia, which Jess and Leslie rule as King and Queen from their castle (which in this world is a treehouse).
As a story about two none-too-happy children finding a refuge in fantasy, Bridge to Terabithia, based on a 1977 novel by Katherine Paterson, which I haven’t read, works quite well for about an hour, before the plot takes a darker turn. (Hint: take your hankies.) The film is decently made and well acted by its two young leads. It’s rather too low-key and old-fashioned a film by today’s standards, which may be its appeal to some, but I suspect not to its intended audience. You have to wonder if letting the viewer’s imagination do much of the work is a viable strategy nowadays: sensing this, director Gabor Csupo, a former animator, overdoes the CGI in the film’s middle section in an attempt to bring Jess and Leslie’s fantasy world to life. Bridge to Terabithia is opening against Spider-Man 3 and that may seal its fate: older children would much rather watch that film, much more immediate in its crashes and bangs and eye candy, while those too young for Spidey will probably be bored by this.