February 17, 2007

Movie Review: Bridge to Terabithia

When I first saw the trailer for Bridge to Terabithia, you could almost hear me grown. It isn't that the movie appeared to be bad, it looked like a decent fantasy film, it is more that it looked like I had already seen it. The trailer made the movie look like The Chronicles of Narnia: Part 2. Considering, that I enjoyed, but was ultimately lukewarm to that feature, it did not bode well for this family fantasy feature. What I got was not so much a fantasy yarn with mythical creatures and sword play and magic, as it is a story of youth struggling to deal with harsh realities escaping into the realm of imagination. It offers up a lot of heart, touches on serious issues, and while leaving you with hope, doesn't wrap everything up in a neat package.

Jesse is a fifth grade outsider, a young artist who finds solace in a pencil. He is picked on rather mercilessly by bullies, and at home he struggles with his older sisters, and an overworked father. His young life is thrown for a loop when Leslie moves in next door, she too is an artist, a writer. Like Jesse, she is picked on for being different. The two are kindred spirits, and they soon find themselves escaping into an imaginary world where they can control what is happening, something they lack in the real world.

It may be a story about struggling to deal with the real world, and have that fantasy world to control, but it is not about the effects to create the fantasy world. As Jesse and Leslie create a friendship, they find a commonality in a vivid imagination, an common piece that is put to use. They have created a world to play in that takes them away from the troubles of their lives, but it is more than that. The imaginary world helps build them up in a way to be able to process the troubles of reality, from absentee parents, to bullies, to an overworked father.

Bridge to Terabithia is a film of subtle beauty. It is a family film that isn't dumbed down and it doesn't disrespect the audiences intelligence. I sat in the theater, completely held by the events as they unfolded, from the gradual creation of Terabithia, to the realistic portrayal of his school and family life, everything just felt so real. It is the rare family film, at least recently, that has any sort of depth.

I cannot adequately convey how much I enjoyed this film. I loved how the effects were used in small doses, how the characters felt genuine, how the script wasn't dumbed down, how everyhting wasn't wrapped up nice and neat, and especially how it seemed completely real. All too often we get family movies like Deck the Halls or Arthur and the Invisibles, it is much more rare to get a family film that has the strength of its convictions. There is a heart and a spirit in this film that brings it to life, it is vibrant and emotional, and all those things I walked in thinking it was not going to be.

The acting from Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb was completely convincing and hit all the right notes. There is a nice, believable development to their relationship, awkward at first, but growing as they realize how alike they are. Not to be left out, there are strong supporting roles in the rest of the cast as well, including Robert Patrick and Zooey Deschanel. They are truly supporting as they have a certain presence, yet do not overstay their welcome, coming in when necessary as the story calls for them.

Much credit goes to director Gabor Csupo. Never heard of him? Neither had I. This is his big screen debut, and his first directorial outing. He has spent most of the recent years working on Nickelodeon properties, like The Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. With Bridge to Terabithia he has delivered a fantastic family film, injecting heart into the proceedings. It really is a wonderful film. Also to be commended are the screenwriters, Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson, working from the novel by Katherine Paterson. David is the son of the Katherine, adding an interesting full circle feeling, especially considering that Katerine wrote it for her son during a time when he needed help dealing with aspects of life. I so not know the specifics, but it does offer up an intriguing piece to the story.

Bottomline. This is not a movie to be missed. It is not an effects show, it is not a fantasy film, it is not a spectacle. It is a sweet story filled with life, one that is not all roses, this is firmly grounded in a reality where death is final and the repercussions long reaching. It is a story that will touch your heart and hold you at attention. In some ways it could be compared to Pan's Labyrinth, high praise indeed.

Highly Recommended.


bharath said...

Thanks. I am gonna watch this film!

Is this an independent movie? it does not seem to be running in local arts theaters?

Chris said...

No, it is actually a pretty big release through Disney and Walden Media. It was the number 2 top grossing film of the weekend, and the best new film of the young year.

Anonymous said...

sorry but i don't like the movie my mom thought that it was horrible :(

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