Bridge To Terabithia Breathes Life, Friendship and Imagination!

Bridge To Terabithia - Cover ArtBridge ToTerabithia is one of those movies that gets it right – its outcast kids deal
with life in different ways and even tragedy can’t dim their effect on each
other… 

Jess Aarons [Josh Hutcherson] is the school outcast. He comes from a poor farm family and spends
more time drawing, or mooning over his music teacher [Zooey Deschanel], than
anything else. The place he excels is in racing – the boy is fast! When the
principal brings a new girl, Leslie Burke [AnnaSophia Robb], into Josh’s class,
strange things begin to happen.

First, Leslie
beats Josh in a race at recess, which doesn’t go over well with him. Then it
turns out that she gets of the school bus at the same place as him. With an
offer of Barbies, Leslie wins over Jess’ little sister, May Belle [Bailee
Madison], but it takes a bit more to have the same effect on Jess.

An essay read in
class tweaks Jess’ imagination and before long, he and Leslie are exploring the
land around the Aarons farm. When they find an old rope swing, it’s the
catalyst to their staking out a place that’s theirs – a place where they can
play without tagalong sisters, or the worries of the farm.

Leslie dubs the
place Terabithia and her imagination sparks Jess’ until, between them, they
create a magical place where they can have great adventures. Before long,
they’ve rebuilt a half-destroyed Treehouse, fought off hideous monsters and
become best friends. They even figure out a way to get even with a bullying
sixth-grade girl named Janice Lauren Clinton] – though when the joke has an
unintended effect, Leslie is quick to offer a shoulder to the distraught bully
[a peace offering of sorts that leads to a believable shift in the bully’s
behaviour later in the movie].

One Saturday, Jess
heads off to a museum with his music teacher – barely pausing to consider
asking Leslie along. The two have a great time and Jess returns home in a buoyant
mood to discover his worried parents and learn of a tragedy that throws his
world completely off kilter.

Bridge To Terabithia - Freeing Sunlight

The trailers and
TV spots for Bridge To Terabithia painted it as a fun fantasy, thus the tragedy
that essentially opens the third act is wholly unexpected – even if there are a
few very slight moments of foreshadowing [re-watch the essay reading…]. On the
other hand, the relationship between Jess and Leslie is carefully and
realistically constructed, so we really believe in their friendship.

When we meet
Leslie’s parents, we are as struck by them as Jess – and the contrast between
them and his family makes a huge point: no matter who we are, or where we are
from, we can find reasons to befriend those who seem different from us. By film’s end, Jess has discovered something
important about himself, but also about May Belle, and that leads to his being
able to recover and move forward in his life.

Both leads are
amazing – Jess and Leslie are as real as any friends we have in the real world.
Robert Patrick stands out as Jess’ stern father, for whom the struggle is
sometimes so overwhelming, he can’t bring himself to be anything less than a
taskmaster – and whose love for his son only shines through while Jess sleeps
after hearing the bad news.

The film is
beautifully shot [cinematographer Michael Chapman retired after it was
completed]. There are scenes of breathtaking beauty and heart-stopping menace.
He manages to catch the souls of the performances on film and completely draws
us into Jess and Leslie’s world[s].

Gabor Csupo’s
direction is virtually flawless. He understands his characters so well that he
is able to perfectly realize them through his cast’s performances. He also has
a great feel for the humdrum of school life – and of teenage crushes on
teachers. His treatment of Janice reveals he also understands the motivations
of bullies as well as the imagination of children.

Bridge To
Terabithia works because every element fits just right. The cast, the
direction, the cinematography… and even though there are CG effects
[compliments of WETA], they are also seamless fit into to the production to
tell the story – not simply to make us go “Wow!” This is a film that deserves
repeated viewings.

Features include:
two Audio Commentaries – one with Csupo, Producer Hal Lieberman and Co-Writer
Jeff Stockwell [the technical commentary] and one with Producer Lauren Levine
and stars Hutcherson and Robb [the fun one]; Behind The Book: The Themes of
Bridge To Terabithia; Digital Imagination: Bringing Terabithia To Life, and a
music video for “Keep Your Mind Wide Open [sung by Robb].

Grade: Bridge To
Terabithia: A+

Grade: Features: A

Final Grade: A

EM Review by
Sheldon Wiebe

Originally Posted
06-19-07

Check out the DVD Reviews page for reviews of
more recent releases

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