Bridge to Terabithia is inspiring. Read on:
In an era when special effects generally overwhelm human imagination, it’s a rare and special privilege to see a movie that celebrates the virtues of thinking, feeling and creating over the sum total of ones and zeroes that can be accumulated in a 120-minute span of storytelling. Bridge to Terabithia, adapted from Katherine Patterson’s beloved children’s novel by Rugrats creator Gabor Csupo, is a real anachronism in today’s family-movie landscape, if for no other reason than it simply and accurately portrays the interior life of adolescents.
And while the almost 30-year old story is indeed spruced up with some Narnia-style CGI to suit the sophisticated 10- and 15-year olds who will undoubtedly be enjoying its otherwise understated charms, this is a film that shares company with the likes of Zathura, Toy Story and even E.T. as a sweet and satisfying celebration of what it’s like to think and feel like a kid.
Terabithia stars Josh Hutcherson (of Zathura and the imminently more effects-driven Polar Express) as Jess Aarons, the only boy in a family of girls. Estranged from his classmates because of his pink hand-me-down sneakers and pop Jack’s (Robert Patrick) low-wage job at a local hardware store, he frequently retreats into the world of his drawings. But when the opportunity arises to show his stuff at school in a foot race, he eagerly steps up to compete. He loses the race, but in the process makes friends with the winner: Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), a newcomer to his sleepy town who similarly has trouble fitting in.
Soon enough, Jess and Leslie become best friends, literally creating new worlds where their imaginations can flourish. After finding a rope swing in the woods behind Jess’ house, the pair is inspired to create Terabithia, a magical world where playground bullies and personal problems take fantastic new forms. As the two grow closer, they discover strength and confidence in one another — and especially themselves — they never knew was possible, in the process making their first furtive steps towards adulthood.
Most movies about teenagers these days seem to focus on one thing — namely, how awful the experience is because the protagonist is forced to grow up way to quick via drugs or peer pressure (see Kids, Bully, Alpha Dog, etc.). Although this movie is admittedly geared toward a slightly younger audience than the aforementioned films, Terabithia more accurately displays the childhood experience by presenting kids who are desperate and afraid to test the boundaries of their fledgling adulthood, parents who no longer know how to deal with their children, and the torment of enduring the whole experience with a schoolyard full of other struggling adolescents.
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In theaters: Now
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