Bridge to Terabithia: 3 Stars (out of 5)
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to see Bridge to Terabithia. The film is being marketed as an imaginary fantasy tale much like Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which I hated to no end, see how much here). But that’s not really what the film is, thank God. It’s a simple tale about the importance of your first best friend and how children often use the power of their imagination to comfort themselves against a world that can often be cruel.
If you are looking for a special effects feast for the eyes than this isn’t your film, but if you just want a film about kids being kids you could do worse than give this one a shot.
Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is a fifth-grader from a poor family which includes a hard father (Robert Patrick), a cute younger sister (Bailee Madison), lazy older sisters (Emma Fenton, Grace Brannigan, Devon Wood) and an unremarkable mother (Katrina Cerio) – the family of your average kid flick.
Jesse lives out his life through his drawings, that is until a new girl shows up next door with an imagination to rival his own. Together Jesse and Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) imagine an entire new world with monsters and faries called Terabithia. During the days they work at school and struggle against a bully (Lauren Clinton), but after school they travel together to a magical world where their problems disappear and anything is possible.
What surprised me most by the film was the lack of special effects. If you’ve watched the trailers you’ve already seen 95% of all the effects shots in the film. If you are looking for a spectacle this isn’t your film. So, what is it exactly? The film focuses on the hardships of being a kid and celebrates imagination and the need for that one true friend. What effects are in the movie are fine, but to be honest the film could easily have been made without a single one.
For a film that celebrates imagination it does lack quite a bit however. The first two-thirds of the film are basic kid storytelling you can find on any sitcom or any show on Nickelodeon. It’s not bad, it’s just been done. The actors themselves are fine, but the fllm doesn’t really have a stand-out performance to hang it’s hat on. They aren’t horrible, they’re just kids.
The adults don’t fare much better. Patrick, in particular, seems out of place (I was wondering when he was going to start hunting John Connor). Only Zooey Deschanel really makes something memorable out of her character, a music teacher who Jesse has a crush on. The rest just blend into the scenery.
The film survives its rather mundane opening by a powerful final act which hit me, quite unexpectedly, right in the gut. It’s when the harsh reality of the world crowds in on the imaginary one that the film finds its best moments.
The film deals with some weighty issues and I wouldn’t recommend it for kids younger than 8 years of age. It’s far from perfect, but the film’s last act is worthy of this marginally positive review; I’d recommend it to patient movie goers with active imaginations.