This decade's My Girl, Bridge to Terabithia is a surprisingly good and entertaining child's tale of friendship, fantasy and human development that will appeal to both children and adults.
From Gabor Csupo, who hasn't directed a movie since 1980, Bridge to Terabithia follows a pre-teen (Josh Hutcherson) who lives his life on a farm. He's quiet, reserved and doesn't have many, if any, friends at school. However, when the new girl at school (AnnaSophia Robb) befriends him, he begins to open up and develop his social skills. As his father (Robert Patrick) continues to come down on him for being off in the clouds, the two close friends venture into a world of their own called Terabithia. While they go in and out of their fantasy world, they must also deal with a bully at school and the realities of the world.
Terabithia is hard to explain, and I don't know if I even should. The movie successfully blends reality and fiction in a very real and childlike way (that's a compliment). Unlike Chronicles of Narnia, which has its characters venture through a doorway into an imaginary world, Terabithia has its characters jump in and out of the magical place like a kid's imagination might wander. They create a tree fort and that tree fort is constantly attacked by creatures. They may be walking through the woods and are chased by a giant tree troll. The birds might swoop down to try to take one of them away. But then they are back in reality, returning to school to play a prank on the class's bully.
Csupo has created a seamless tale of imagination and reality, a movie about a child's fantasies and at the same time about the sometimes harsh realities that face most children at some point in their lives. Terabithia is not an adventure fantasy story like Narnia or The Neverending Story; there is no central villain or threat, or even any real action. Still, children will be captivated by the way creatures emerge, even if only for seconds, in the woods that could be out back of their own house. Parents (and non-parents like me) will appreciate how the movie develops its lead characters in a very believable way. Most importantly, the movie is always entertaining.
The visual effects are also surprisingly good for a film like this.
Bridge to Terabithia is not a typical adventure story, but is instead about two children growing up in modern society who let their imaginations get the best of them. This really is the My Girl for a new generation of children, and that's saying a lot.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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