Bridge to Terabithia was released in the UK in the Spring of 2007, the same time that I was working at Vue Cinemas; so of course I’d heard of this film before seeing it.
I’d seen the theatrical trailer for the film dozens of times and I’d see sections of it when screen checking; so I thought that I’d have a fairly good idea of what to expect from such a film.
Naturally the trailers and the bits that I’d seen, before starting the movie, had led me to believe that this would be a child’s film which would follow the same principle as Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”. This principle being, children get bored, children stumble upon a magical kingdom, children save magical kingdom from evil force, audience leaves the cinema wondering if they’d seen the movie beforehand. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a story that mixed contemporary adult themes with childhood wonder; this makes “Bridge to Terabithia” in a new fantasy movie genre of its own.
The film works on two levels, not in the way that a Pixar movie does, but whether you’re a child or an adult you get a completely different story. Children will see this movie as a great fantasy adventure between two friendly characters that they can relate to. Adults will be seeing a different movie, one that highlights child neglect, physical abuse, religion, love, loss of childhood, growing up and most importantly a bond between two children that is so strong that it can create worlds.
We begin our story in a modern day setting, a small middle American town; the roads are dusty, the school is overpopulated, people live off the land and it’s a few miles to an urban metropolis. Seems like a perfect setting for a film that explores the strength of children’s imagination. Most of the film’s action either takes place in the local school or around the leading character’s house; this seems a little strange for a film that seems to be about a secret fantasy world, of course it’s much more than that.
The supporting characters in the film seem a little weak in the beginning, but as the story progresses their cliché roles seems to disappear and we get real people. We have the typical school bullies, the whiny sister, the strict teacher, the liberal teacher and the neglecting father and mother. These roles all change without warning during the film, this helps to progress the story in a more believable manner.
Being a protagonist in any story is always a hard performance to pull off, making your performance believable and natural is another hurdle altogether. Which is why whenever you don’t notice or pick up on an actor’s performance capabilities, you know that they’ve done a fantastic job. The mark of a true performer is to make you believe so much in a character that you forget where you are, you are compelled by their performance to such an extent that it enthrals you. Thankfully the portrayals of Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke by child performers Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb, respectively, manage to achieve this feat perfectly. Watching these two performances completely engulfs you in the story, if they were any weaker the story being told would not be believable.
Despite the marketing of this movie as a Children’s fantasy, the film is incredibly deep. Do not be put off my the sickening and misleading promotion, this film is a diamond in the rough of fantasy stories. No better fantasy film was released in 2007 that gave so much back to the audiences that went to see it. This is not a children’s fantasy movie in the line of the “Harry Potter” series or “The Chronicles of Narnia”. This is a film that can be compared to none. A REAL family film that does not rely on CGI and a fantasy world to keep the audience paying attention; but instead relies on a great story, fantastic character development and the innocence of a child’s imagination.
Total Rating: 8.5 / 10