Sep 16, 2014

Review: Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

I was seventeen when Bridge to Terabithia came out and that's kind of on the too old side in terms of the movie's target audience. I don't even remember any advertising for it back then but I think that's because I was starting to phase out my TV watching. Disney is clearly targeting children with this movie and the fact that the main characters are in the fifth grade is a pretty big indicator of that. This was also the case in the Katherine Paterson novel of the same name that the movie is based on.

I've read that Bridge to Terabithia is very faithful adaptation of Paterson's book which I'm happy to hear. Sadly I've never read it but it sounds like it would be a good book all the same. The things that the characters do which involves using their imagination and creating their own worlds reminds me of myself. The one thing I hoped that first-time live-action film director Gabor Csupo would avoid is the overuse of CGI when it came time to showing the made up world of Terabithia.


Genre: adventure, drama, family
Directed by: Gabor Csupo
Produced by: Lauren Levine, Hal Lieberman, David Paterson, etc.
Written by: Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson
Music by: Aaron Zigman
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Walden Media, Hal Lieberman Company, Lauren Levine Productions Inc.
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Buena Vista Pictures, Constantin Film, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $20,000,000
Box office: $137,587,063 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, Kate Butler, Devon Wood, Emma Fenton, Grace Brannigan, Latham Gaines, Judy McIntosh, Patricia Aldersley, Lauren Clinton, Isabelle Rose Kircher, Cameron Wakefield, Elliot Lawless, Carly Owen



Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) lives with his parents and three sisters. They're struggling to make ends meet which inevitably causes problems. For example, Jesse is forced to wear a pair of pink shoes that used to belong to one of his older sisters, causing him to be bullied by two meat heads at school. When the new, weird girl Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) beats him and every other boy in a footrace, it's just a massive slap in the face after Jesse had put in lots of time training. Things almost take a turn for the worst when he discovers that Leslie is his new neighbor. In the end though, they both become very close friends. 


Watching Bridge to Terabithia reminded me of why I don't like Josh Hutcherson. As a fifteen year-old, he seems to be even more devoid of a personality than he is now. I think he's improved lots since his younger days but for me personally, BtT is not his best film performance by a longshot. (Spoilers) He's got lots of improving to do but I will give him credit for his big emotional scene with his dad  (Robert Patick) where he breaks down in tears. That was a difficult scene to do and I think he got it. I don't see any real interest or passion in the rest of his performance though. (End Spoilers)

AnnaSophia Robb is the best of the young cast with tons of genuine energy. At times I felt like she fell into that stereotypical "manic pixie dream girl" from rom-coms but that was mostly averted. Leslie does have a background that's developed soundly enough but it's still an unavoidable comparison. But Bailee Madison as Jesse's younger sister is too cute for words! In terms of the older cast, Robert Patrick is well casted as the gruff, strict father as is Zooey Deschanel playing the quirky music teacher. 

The story of Bridge to Terabithia has some really good sentiment. It's covers a wide range of topics concerning growing up like acceptance, bullying, and friendship. Jesse and Leslie create their own imaginary world in the forest behind their homes and they learn some valuable lessons that they're able to apply to real life. (Spoilers) Regarding the big drama near the end, I'd categorize it more as shocking than sad. I'm sure it's the kind of thing that will affect certain people but it didn't quite get me. (End Spoilers)

The thing is, all of the issues that Jesse faces are handled in pretty heavy handed fashion. The bullying in particular is just laughably exaggerated and simplified. I suppose I understand why it's done that way because after all, this is a movie for children. Bridge to Terbithia isn't a dumb movie by any means but it's very much for children and doesn't really translate that well for a more mature audience. 

The fantastical scenes involving Terabithia are actually pretty limited but at times toe the line in terms of overusing CGI. Seven years later, the CGI isn't that great anymore and it comes off as pretty silly. In a book I can imagine that getting attacked by mutant squirrels and hairy vultures works but it doesn't work so well on the big screen.

Bridge to Terabithia doesn't get all of the coming-of-age ingredients right. It injects a pretty cool fantasy element to the mix but it's an aspect that fails as often as it succeeds. Josh Hutcherson is a deadweight but thankfully there's AnnaSophia Robb who's there to partially save the day. One thing I want to credit the makers of Bridge of Terabithia for getting right is that the scene which takes place in a Protestant church features some pretty bad hymn singing. Any Protestant church I've ever visited without a choir features a hilarious mix of awful to bad singing so I was glad that they represented that fairly.



Related Reviews:

Bridge to Terabithia (1985) 

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