Bridge to Terabithia is a film most children should see, but it’s so dully aestheticized they may not care to. Like Arthur and the Invisibles, the story observes a young boy navigating the precarious crawlspace between childhood innocence and adult responsibility, but Gabor Csupo doesn’t have Luc Besson’s talent for enlivening cliché homilies with bold colors and striking camera angles. A loner with a talent for drawing and a tendency to say very little, Jess (Josh Hutcherson) goes to one of those schools that only exist in Disney movies and television programs where the worst thing a bully can do to you is steal your Twinkies or ask you for a dollar in order to let you into the bathroom. (Equally sketchy is the story’s Disneyed sense of poverty: Jess’s mother and father are always punching away at their calculator, and though the outside of their house could use some repair, no one who has grappled with poverty will commiserate with the family’s state of affairs.) Not long after the eccentric Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) arrives from out of town, she and Jess become friends, traveling into the woods behind their homes and stumbling across a world born of their own fantasies. These children don’t exactly have it hard at school, but the way they use their imaginations to problem-solve crisis is interesting, responding to their challenges with great determination but not always with great care, as in the inhumane embarrassment they contrive against an 8th-grade bully by making her think a boy is in love with her. Jess and Leslie grapple with faith, God, identity, remorse, even death (though never sex—this is a Disney movie after all) in ways that should be familiar to us all. This makes the film very special, even if Csupo’s visuals are so unmoving they become depressing.
- Gabor Csupo
- Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson
- Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailey Madison, Kate Butler, Devon Wood, Emma Fenton, Grace Brannigan, Latham Gaines, Judy McIntosh, Patricia Aldersley, Lauren Clinton, Isabelle Rose Kircher
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