Story builds bridge to maturity

2/21/2007

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter 

Bridge to Terabithia
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel
Director: Gabor Csupo
Rating: PG

Based on the popular Newbery Award-winning novel by Katerine Paterson, Bridge To Terabithia is a fantasy/adventure story of friendship, family and the power of imagination. Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is an outsider at school and even in his own family. Jess, 11, has trained all summer to become the fastest kid in his middle school class but his goal is unexpectedly thwarted by the new girl in school, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) who competes in the "boys only" race and wins. 

Despite their awkward introduction, the two outsiders quickly become best friends. Leslie loves to tell stories of fantasy and magic. Jess loves to draw, but until he met Leslie it was something he kept to himself. Leslie opens a new world of imagination for Jess. Together they create the secret kingdom of Terabithia, a magical place only accessible by swinging on an old rope over a stream in the woods near their homes. There, the friends rule the kingdom, fight the Dark Master and his creatures and plot against the school bullies. 

Bridge To Terabithia is a creative parable for young and old. Csupo keeps the pacing lively and involving while addressing subjects that range from preteen angst to appreciating what and who you have. Young Josh Hutcherson is introspective and sincere, while AnnaSophia Robb lights up the screen with her smile and visionary nature. As for the special effects, they serve the story rather than domineer it.  

Like most films that address mature precepts, Bridge To Terabithia should not be mistaken for a kiddie matinee. It receives the PG rating because of thematic elements that include bullying, a parent unable to show affection, feelings of being overshadowed and unloved and the death of a friend.  The film contains some spooky imagery and the narrative jolts us with the discovery that a main character has suddenly died. On the surface, these subjects may seem dark, but these truisms concerning fears and death may help young audience members cope with similar concerns, while  reminding us older moviegoers to not let a good word go unsaid, a good deed go undone. 

 

At one point, Robb’s character, unfamiliar with church going, can’t grasp the concept that God would send a soul to hell. Her young companions clumsily attempt to explain the religious notion, while she simply sees God as too busy creating and sharing the wonders of nature to ever dwell on mankind’s disobedience. I thought the scene was wisely handled in that it reminds us to teach little ones about God’s love. The concept of the Creator’s justice confuse even biblical scholars and probably should be shared with one’s progeny when they’re a little nearer the accountable age.