“The Bridge to Terabithia” is the film about the power of imagination based on the novel by Katherine Paterson. Written by Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson and directed by Gabor Csupo is too dark to be a children’s movie and lacks the certain X factor to make it a wonderful tale.
Josh Hutcherson plays Jesse Aarons, a poor farm boy who is picked on at school and alone at home even though he is one of several siblings. Leslie Burke played by AnnaSophia Robb moves in next door to the Aarons family. A special friendship develops between Jesse and Leslie. When they discover a rope hanging over a creek they take the opportunity to create a magical world to escape real life. Whenever there is a problem at school or at home, Terabithia provides the answer or at least an outlet to deal with typical adolescent garbage.
Josh Hutcherson’s performance was tender and touching. I was amazed at his ability to emote complex emotional expenses with out cracking under the weight of the topics covered in the movie. It’s hard to play adolescence with the over-emotional vigor they experience with out getting annoying. Even though his character was very internal, his outward expressions of feeling are always in character and subtle. Most child actors can’t cry well (or adults for that matter) but Aarons’ tears are full and have no shoulder seizing. His acting is a beacon of light at the end of the movie. After an unexpected event changes his relationship with Leslie, his portrayal of a boy lost is gut-wrenching. I thought I couldn’t be more affected but during the next scene I was devastated just a little bit more.
AnnaSophia Robb’s character Leslie, is a light hearted addition to the story. Her ability to dismiss the real world and delve completely in a world that her mind creates is the basis for the whimsy in the story. Even though Leslie’s character nearly puts her toe in the pond of hippyness, Robb does a good job of keeping her feet dry. She’s very good at reminding the audience the importance of childlike whimsy and the value of imagination with out seeming like an airhead.
Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb’s performances outshine the adult supporting cast. Robert Patrick plays the over stressed father Jack Aarons. He is so angry and punchy that you don’t think there is any affection left for his son. Patrick over plays the amount of stress and anger necessary to motivate Jesse’s anxieties and move the plot along.
Bailee Madison was incredibly adorable. She plays Jesse’s little sister May Belle. Every scene she’s in, she owns the screen. I looked forward to seeing her again when ever she was off the screen.
I watched this movie, wondering when anything was going to happen. It is a little slow to start and you wonder if this is all you get. I was stunned when it did happen, caught completely off guard. It takes a very dark turn, and it surprised me how much I cared when it happened. I could not stop crying for the rest of the film.
There are a lot of revelations about the characters, lead and supporting, that are heavy and probably over the heads of small children. For some reason Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson and Gabor Csupo decided to wiz pass some of those weighty topics and leave the adults who watch the movie annoyed there is no resolution. I was disgusted that when one of the people in the film confesses something potentially life or death for her, no one acts on her behalf and it is only used as something to move along a fantasy.
The weight of the poor supporting cast really drags this film down. The places where this movie is poorly written pull it down a little more. If this movie were marketed to adults and really tackled the serious aspects of the film with fearlessness it might have been a great movie. As it stands, “The Bridge to Terabithia” isn’t a great movie. It’s defiantly worth seeing as a matinee or as a rental.