" It’s been 84 years and I can still smell the fresh paint "
— Gloria Stuart, Titanic

MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

Sponsored links

Don’t be misled by the advertising for Bridge to Terabithia, which would like audiences to believe that the movie is a special effects-laden fantasy adventure along the lines of The Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. The movie, based on the award winning book by Katherine Paterson, is about friendship and coping with life’s difficulties, and is firmly rooted in the real world.

Keep Your Mind Wide Open

He likes to draw. She’s got a talent for creative writing.
He likes to draw. She’s got a talent for creative writing.

Jess and Leslie, who are about 12 years old, are misfits at home and at school. Jess (intense Josh Hutcherson) is the overlooked middle child in a large family. Leslie (bright-eyed AnnaSophia Robb) is the new kid at school who dresses a little funny. Both of them are targets for bullies. He likes to draw. She’s got a talent for creative writing.

They strike up a tentative friendship which solidifies when they start exploring the woods behind their homes. A rope hangs tantalizingly over a creek. Before too long they stumble (perhaps a bit too conveniently) upon an old treehouse.

Leslie is the first to look at the world a little differently. That rusted-out car must have belonged to some people who were trying to escape the Dark Master, she tells Jess. A hole left by a fallen tree is the footprint of a giant. Jess eventually catches on, and the squirrels become monstrous minions of the Dark One, while some of the other monsters take on the characteristics of their tormentors at school. Their adventures in Terabithia inspire them to deal with their problems in the outside world.

Despite some visual foreshadowing, I was unprepared for the tragedy that struck in the third act. I found myself wishing that I was watching a special effects-laden fantasy adventure. If you see this movie with your kids, be prepared to talk with them about it afterwards. Bridge to Terabithia wasn’t the movie I was hoping for, but the sensitive handling of the story and the charisma of the two lead actors made it worth watching.

DVD Extras

The DVD has two commentary tracks. The better of the two has director Gabor Csupo, screenwriter Jeff Stockwell and producer Hal Lieberman. The three are chatty and have plenty to say about the production and some of the choices they made in adapting and filming the story. The commentators on the second track — Hutcherson, Robb and producer Lauren Levine — are equally chatty but not as interesting. “Behind the Book: The Themes of Bridge to Terabithia,” is a 15-minute featurette that delivers just what the title says. It includes interviews with Paterson and with teachers who have assigned the book to their classes. “Digital Imagination: Bringing Terabithia to Life,” covers the development of the movie’s special effects. A music video with Robb singing “Keep Your Mind Wide Open” is skippable.

Picture and Sound

Both the widescreen picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound are excellent.

How to Use the DVD

After watching the movie, take a look at the “Behind the Book” featurette. If you want the inside scoop on the making of the movie, give the commentary track with Csupo, Stockwell and Lieberman a listen.