A lonely boy discovers the wonders of his imagination when he befriends the new girl at school. After exploring the nearby woods, the two friends create their own imaginary world called Terabithia, using it as an escape from the troubles that they face at home and at school.
Bridge To Terabithia (2007) – Director: Gabor Csupo
Running Length: 96 mins
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
This wonderful story of two kindred spirits will ignite the imaginations of children and adults alike. While the action is more subdued, the production feels like a fantasy movie from the 1980’s, such as Labyrinth and Neverending Story. The movie relies mostly on the strong performances of its cast rather than the trips that Jess and Leslie take to Teribithia. There are a few special effects used in these sequences, however they are clearly designed to show the imagination of the two leads rather than spend time on an unnecessary building of an unreal world.
There are several underlying plotlines to this movie which enhance the overall story, making it a much more realistic tale of children wishing to escape the difficulties of everyday life. Jess’ large, poverty-suffering family are all well written characters who make you understand the young boy’s maturity beyond his years (as well as his frustrations) and while Leslie’s rarely seen – but clearly free-spirited – parents add weight to Leslie’s happy-go-lucky (and perhaps slightly naive) attitude to everything life throws at her. The friendship between the two, although a little shaky at first, is never forced and the young actors do the movie credit by creating a believable core from which the rest of the plot can revolve around.
IS ‘BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Director Gabor Csupo clearly intends this movie to be suitable and enjoyable to every member of the family and juggles the real-life and imaginary elements well. There are a few minor scares and instances of mild peril, which will be highlighted below, however no fantasy movie worth its salt would be complete without these moments to keep its audience gripped.
The school which Jess and Leslie attend has a few mean bullies; one in particular has a fierce reputation. While two of the boys push Jess a little and the language that these children use can range from teasing to threatening, they do not actually cause any real harm to anyone.
When Jess and Leslie first visit the woods which will become the base of their Terabithia fantasies, Jess’ imagination takes on a slightly dark tone. He is initially scared of the rustling of the trees and rattling of keys like many children would be, however Leslie’s upbeat and more positive outlook on this new world soothes Jess enough to relax. Jess also occasionally sees a mysterious shadowy figure running through the woods in the middle distance who can turn to dust and disappear. This figure is clearly meant to be scary but is also clearly just part of Jess’ imagination. These moments are brief so shouldn’t cause too much concern for children.
Jess, Leslie and Jess’ little sister, May Belle, are seen at church and then discuss what they believe afterwards. Jess and May Belle have been told that if you don’t believe in the Bible then you will be damned to hell whereas Leslie, who has little knowledge of religion, says that she doesn’t believe that God would do that when He’s so busy making the world a beautiful place. This is a relatively short scene which only discusses the character’s beliefs in a mild way. It does not ask the audience to pick a side but may raise the question of religion with children who would like to know more about it.
An established character has an accident which results in their death and they are mourned by their loved ones. The death is not shown on screen but the scenes surrounding the news, grief and aftermath take up around 15 minutes of the movie and could be quite upsetting, especially for younger kids.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘Bridge To Terabithia’ is a mature and unpatronising family movie which is likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. While the ending seems rather sudden (as if another scene may have rounded the events off slightly better), the movie is never rushed and it allows you to get to know the characters well. Although this movie should be suitable for all ages, we would recommend this movie for ages 6 and over, simply because younger children may find the ‘real-life’ parts a little dull.
- Violence: 1/5 (one bully at the school is shown to have a bloody nose, there is a brief mention of one child having a violent father)
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (the community is rocked by the tragic death of a child; the scenes of grief are not overdone but could be a little upsetting)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (some of the imaginary creatures of Terabithia, including the shadow figure are a bit scary but these moments are not sustained)
- Sexual Content: 0/5 (Although Jess has a very innocent crush on one of his teachers it is never sexual in nature)
- Bad Language: 1/5 (some very mild cursing and blasphemy)
- Dialogue: 3/5 (Jess’ father tells Jess that he will have to catch and kill an animal which has destroyed some of the plants in his greenhouse to prevent it happening again. He also expects Jess to be more grown up and to help around the house. He is angry when Jess loses some keys as this will cost the family a lot of money to replace).
- Other notes: Deals with themes of friendship, family life, bullies and children’s imaginations.
Words by Laura Record