Screenwriter: Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson, Katherine Paterson (novel)
Runtime: 95 min
Release Date: 4 May
It’s a wonderful thing when computer-generated effects represent imagination rather than replacing it, and in Bridge to Terabithia, the film adaptation of the popular children’s book, imagination is at the forefront of the story. Directed by first-timer Gabor Csapo (a one-time animator for the Simpsons and, interestingly, the inspiration behind Dr. Nick Riviera,) BTT stars two of Hollywood’s most charismatic and believable young actors, Josh Hutcherson and Annasophia Robb, in a story which celebrates the innocent pleasures of childhood.
Our hero, Jesse, (Hutcherson,) is the only boy in a family of four girls. His parents struggle with money, his sisters fight with each other, and he gets left in the background. At school Jesse is picked on, and he retreats into his notebook, which he fills with colourful and escapist drawings. Everything changes when the unconventional new girl,(Robb,) moves into town, and after some stops and starts, they become fast friends, escaping the doldrums and conventional minds of their elementary school to a made up world they call Terabithia.
The most charming parts of the film take place when the two are imagining their kingdom together, doing very out-of-date things like building forts and running around in the woods. There’s a simple message in the film which speaks to the pleasures of the mind and the pure, clean and joyously unbound fun that’s to be had with a friend who’s a kindred spirit. Thunderclouds appear when Jesse’s dad, (the scary robot from Terminator, Robert Patrick) is too hard on him, or when Leslie is picked on at school, but the two are always able to escape in a very believable way to the fictional world that they created just for such purposes.
It doesn’t end in sunny days and fairy clouds, but suffice to say that in spite of its fantastic name and fictional provenance, Terabithia proves to be a great place to laugh, escape, learn and grieve for a couple of kids stuck in preteen pugwash. Things don’t all end happily, but the lesson is never pithy or preachy, just all too real. Similarly, The Bridge to Terabithia is a good flick for friends, fantasists and families alike.