BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA
*** (out of 5)
February 16, 2007
Josh Hutcherson as JESSE AARONS
AnnaSophia Robb as LESLIE BURKE
Zooey Deschanel as MS. EDMONDS
Robert Patrick as JACK AARONS
Bailee Madison as MAY BELLE AARONS
Kate Butler as NANCY AARONS
Lauren Clinton as JANICE AVERY
Directed by: Gabor Csupo
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I was in fifth grade when I read the book “Bridge to Terabithia.” I figured that it had to be pretty decent. After all, it won the Newberry Award. (This was, of course, before I realized that the Newberry Award is the grade-school equivalent of the Oprah Book Club which librarians force on children out of guild or curriculum requirements.)
My mother read it first, and when I was finished, she asked me if I liked it. What resulted from me was a tirade of venom that continues to this day.
I loathed the book. I hated it with a passion. I cannot remember reading anything else in my youth that I hated more, and I read a lot when I was a kid.
I hated the book “Bridge to Terabithia” for the same reason that I fear many kids might hate the movie. I was, quite simply, misled. With a name like this, it sounded like high adventure. It sounded like another Narnia story. The trailers to the film are much the same.
A word of warning to everyone out there: “Bridge to Terabithia” is about as far as you can get from a Narnia movie. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Actually, I found myself somewhat fond of the movie adaptation. However, it is very true to the book, and the themes and subject matter within are still completely intact.
Perhaps I would have liked the book better if I knew what I was getting myself into. Now, as an adult, I know that a modern story of high adventure would never win a Newberry. Case in point… the “Harry Potter” books have sold more copies than probably the remaining Scholastic catalogue and have inspired more kids to read worldwide than anything ever written in the past 100 years. Still, it doesn’t deal with so-called “real” issues, and modern fantasy is a no-no to many stuffy librarians.
The movie is not about a magical world called Terabithia. It’s about two school kids – a boy and a girl – who form a special friendship. The boy Jesse (Josh Hutcherson) has a particularly hard life with a gaggle of sisters at home, bullies at school, a mother whose too tired to deal with him and a verbally abusive father. When he meets Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), they become fast friends.
Together, they buck the bully system and escape to the imaginary world of Terabithia when they play after school and on the weekends. However, the heavy issues in Jesse’s life come crashing in on his fantasy when tragedy strikes.
Fans of the book will be thrilled with this adaptation. The movie itself captures – arguably better than the book did – the essence of childhood tragedy. The child actors do a fine job, often upstaging the adults. Critics of the books should have a softer take since much of the secular humanist arguments are toned down (although not entirely). Overall, it’s less of a liberal hippie preach-fest that the book was, but still needlessly depressing for a kids’ movie.
The bottom line is that families might enjoy the movie, but parents need to find out what happens in it before taking their kids. If not, they’ll spend much of the ride home (and probably the next few days) talking to their kids about the issues the movie raises.