Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: "Bridge to Terabithia" is Beautiful and Heartbreaking (Happy B'day, AnnaSophia Robb)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 103 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Running time: 96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – PG for thematic material including bullying, some peril, and mild language
DIRECTOR: Gabor Csupo
WRITERS: Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson (based upon the book by Katherine Paterson)
PRODUCERS: Lauren Levine, Hal Lieberman, and David Paterson
EDITOR: John Gilbert


Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, Kate Butler, Devon Wood, Emma Fenton, Grace Brannigan, Latham Gaines, Judy McIntosh, Lauren Clinton, Cameron Wakefield, and Elliot Lawless

Bridge to Terabithia, the beloved Newberry Medal-winning book by Katherine Paterson, finally makes it to the big screen in a film produced by Walden Media. The film is co-written and co-produced by Katherine’s son, David Paterson, for whom she wrote the book a little over three decades ago. (There was a 1983 TV version produced by WonderWorks and broadcast on PBS.)

Jesse Aaron (Josh Hutcherson) is an outcast at home and at school. His parents seem to focus all their attention on his two older and two young sisters and have little time for their only son, the middle child. At school, he is a loner and his interest in drawing only makes his isolation worse. In this situation arrives a new classmate, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), the only daughter of well-to-do writers. Her free-spirited ways and mall punk fashion sense also don’t fit in well with her new rural home.

Although Jesse at first resists, he eventually accepts Leslie’s overtures of friendship. She takes him deep into the local woods, and together, with Leslie’s imagination as the catalyst, the duo creates the make-believe kingdom of Terabithia, a magical land of giants, trolls, and assorted fantastical monsters and creatures where they’re free to be themselves. In Terabithia, the outcast duo reigns supreme and plot revenge against their fellow schoolmates who bully them, but tragedy will test the fate of their creation.

Although I haven’t read the book as of writing this, I have to wonder that Bridge to Terabithia the book must be wonderful source material. Walt Disney’s advertising campaign for the film’s theatrical release is deceptive. Bridge to Terabithia is not a fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. It’s a heartfelt drama about childhood friendships and the trials and adversities of pre-teen life, and the real lives of Jesse and Leslie, not Terabithia, is where the story and its themes largely exist. The make-believe world of Terabithia represents a place of total freedom, where the two heroes can be who they want to be free of the judgments and criticisms of the real world.

Taking its cue from Katherine Paterson’s book, the film focuses on the complexities of making friendships and of family dynamics. Friendships can be formed between people who are not at all alike, whether the differences are because of personality or socio-economic status, the film says. The story also emphasizes that families are not perfect, nor are the relationships within families perfect, as parents may show more favor or attention to some children than others.

Director Gabor Csupo (of Klasky-Csupo, the creators of “Rugrats” and “The Wild Thornberrys,” among others) shows great restrain in focusing the film on the relationship dynamics, and makes the film an engaging drama and universal story. The film does have moments of magic and fantasy when CGI brings the creatures of Terabithia to life. However, Bridge to Terabithia uses the magic of imagination and make-believe to enhance real life. Terabithia is a source of strength and unquestioning love that carries over into the real world to help our two heroes survive the pratfalls and obstacles of childhood. That is why this film sticks with me and makes me wish “if only we all had a Terabithia.”

8 of 10

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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