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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.43%
Average: 19.35%
Pretty Bad: 11.83%
Total Crap: 17.2%

7 reviews, 51 user ratings

Bridge to Terabithia
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by brianorndorf

"It's amazing what a family film can do without fart jokes"
5 stars

Family film treats are few and far between, which makes "Bridge to Terabithia" something to hug tightly to. A warm, unexpectedly moving drama, the picture is being incorrectly sold as a special effects bonanza. It's a shame that Walt Disney Pictures has to stoop so low when they have a beautiful gem of a motion picture right in front of them; a film that will pleasingly devastate the viewer with emotion and depth.

Now here is a lovely motion picture. Made with reverence to character, patience, and a respect for the unpredictability of the heart, “Bridge to Terabithia” makes a wildly successful leap from Katherine Paterson’s intimate, award-winning 1977 novel to the big screen.

Frustrated with his family’s financial health and the bullies at school, Jess (Josh Hutcherson, “Zathura”) loses himself daily in his drawings to escape his hardships. When he’s beaten in a foot race by the new girl at school, Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb, “Because of Winn-Dixie”), Jess strikes up an uneasy friendship with the upbeat young lady and they escape to the nearby woods to play. There, the children unleash the fantasy world of Terabithia from their imaginations, anointing themselves the king and queen of the land. As the fantasy grows stronger, Jess is hit with some powerful life lessons, desperate for Leslie’s guidance during these troubling times.

If you’re new to the world of “Terabithia,” the fine folks at Walt Disney Studios have been endlessly promoting the film as a wild special effects fantasy, complete with towering monsters, sparkly blue rays of magic, and fairy tale might. The picture does feature this material, but only in small, considered doses. “Terabithia” isn’t about enchantment or fanciful jeopardy; this is a story about the possibility of the mind, and how it processes guilt, grief, and love. I’ll admit this doesn’t make for an easily marketable night at the movies, but it’s imperative to note the reality of the story, therefore allowing audiences a fighting chance to accept this deeply poignant production.

After years of toiling away on Nickelodeon properties, director Gabor Csupo makes a thrilling debut with “Terabithia.” He seems to understand what’s being requested of him by both the book and the heart behind the story (the script was co-authored by Katherine’s son and inspiration for the book, David), and preserves the literary experience the best he can. This is a fine piece of direction, contrasting the luminous daydream of Terabithia for Jess and Leslie with the difficulties of their school and suffocating family lives.

Csupo never speaks down to the characters or the audience, refusing to push style or artifice too far, and permits the film to breathe in the instants of stillness and personal discovery. Terabithia is an incredible place of trolls and other beasts, but the filmmaker is careful not to be lulled in by the laziness of special effects; Csupo makes Jess and Leslie his top priority, consequently creating two rounded, intelligent pre-teen characters that stay in your system long after the film has ended. When was the last time a movie accomplished that?

Csupo really won me over with his depiction of Jess and Leslie’s school life. It’s a small detail, but the music class, presided over by Jess’s crush Ms. Edmunds (played by national treasure Zooey Deschanel), evokes a potent, earnest feeling of innocence and creativity, which spills over to Jess’s drawings and how that artistic release is paramount to his very being. It’s the corners of the film that make the experience all the more generous.

The acting is what stunned me the most about “Terabithia.” While Hutcherson has been solid in terrific films, and gives a tender reading of Jess’s isolation here, Robb is the performance that took me by complete surprise. The now 14-year-old actress gave an aggressively shrill performance in “Winn-Dixie,” yet in “Terabithia,” she instills Leslie with a miraculous sense of life. The architect of the magical realm, you believe Leslie when she introduces this unpredictable surge of imagination to Jess, and the open-heart friendliness toward the boy is touching and achingly humane. If this is what Robb is capable of, and able to stave off the ick of indication she’s demonstrated before, I’m ready for great things to come from this actress.

What I found hard to swallow is that old cold prickly: religion. A provocative theme in Paterson’s book, the film can’t find an easy entryway to the discussion of either Leslie’s church curiosity or Jess’s bible-fed guilt. The conversations about Jesus and the ominous nature of hell tend to jut out of the film in unusually sharp ways, with Csupo failing to organically thread the spiritual subplot into the picture. It’s a small blemish, but one that gnaws slowly on the rest of the picture.

You take your kids to “Night at the Museum” or “Charlotte’s Web,” and you’ve employed a temporary babysitter. Roll them over to “Bridge to Terabithia” and you’ll feed their minds with a rich tapestry of emotional investment unheard of in today’s family film landscape. It’s a gem, and should not be missed.

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originally posted: 02/16/07 16:25:13
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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
10/12/09 80s Angel a simply wonderful movie. 4 stars
3/19/09 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
5/03/08 Karrie Millheim I did not like this movie, I thought it was going to be so much different than it was 2 stars
4/21/08 Isabel I was told this compared with "Pan's Labyrinth". Not even close in interest and complexity 2 stars
4/10/08 Brandy Loved the book as a child. Thought this was pretty good. 4 stars
2/16/08 daveyt poo 1 stars
2/13/08 Katherine W. Apparently someone didn’t read the book. 4 stars
2/07/08 ROANN POT 5 stars
1/22/08 Al Toons Good Flick, Figures she disses God, another atheist, Roe topic against the "empire" of God 1 stars
1/13/08 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
1/03/08 Justin P I cried like a little baby. It was really good. 5 stars
12/09/07 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
8/25/07 Jeff A fine movie, mature and engaging. The reviewer will think more of it when older, I'd bet. 5 stars
8/14/07 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
7/18/07 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
7/07/07 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
6/24/07 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
6/09/07 Stephanie Throckmorton Right, EricD, doesn't "manhandle" viewer's heart, unlike the book, which DOES! 3 stars
6/09/07 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
5/15/07 vicky fabulous multi-dimensional meanings to this film-for adults not kids 5 stars
4/25/07 Tiffany Losco sad, I took my 4 yearold. She kept asking me why? why? 4 stars
4/15/07 pat Ouch! I went out for a sweet fantasy film and came home angry because I ruined my eye makeu 2 stars
4/12/07 rimrhino This was a great flick; I cried, and I'm one of those "manly men" Todd mentioned! 5 stars
3/26/07 gary i go to a disney movie to escape.. this film made me want to escape the theatre 3 stars
3/22/07 ES Wow, powerful moments and some real life lessons 4 stars
3/14/07 Cire Alleraccav This movie will make any kid with a heart cry -- and think -- for all the right reasons! 5 stars
3/12/07 Kevin unremarable 5 stars
3/09/07 Martin Visaully, it's well made, but that's all it has, the rest is just sh@t 1 stars
3/06/07 Robin Hudspeth The trailer posed this as a kid's movie with magical animation. Not! A tragedy - Ol Yeller! 3 stars
3/05/07 --- Previews very misleading-if you're looking for Narnia type film you'll be disappointed 1 stars
3/04/07 Justin Imagination? Where? Fun? Where? RIP OFF 2 stars
2/27/07 bob ok,sad 4 stars
2/22/07 paddysixpack unbelievably brilliant 5 stars
2/19/07 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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