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Review

Childhood favorite comes to life in 'Bridge to Terabithia'

February 22, 2007

When mention of the new children’s fantasy film, “Bridge to Terabithia,” was made, responses were similar: ‘Oh yeah! I read that book, like, in the sixth grade ... I don’t remember it though.’ Regardless of popular belief, just because the book wasn’t memorable doesn’t mean the movie won’t be great.

The story begins with fifth-grader Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), a poor farm-boy who gets picked on by the eighth-grade bullies who dominate the school. Jess finally makes a friend, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), who shares the same unfortunate social trait. Jess and Leslie become close friends as they stumble upon an abandoned tree house, which results in an imaginary territory of their own called “Terabithia.”

The two characters took me away from the mundane college life to a past childhood that I remember better than any book I might have read then. The similarities were amazing, from the house in the sticks to the abandoned car in the woods. From my best-friend-who-happens-to-be-a-boy next door to the getting back at the jerks who made you pay for things that should be free during recess, the flashbacks on the big screen were uncanny.

As soon as Zooey Deschanel, who plays the music teacher, walked into view, the eyes of Jess and mine were focused only on her. I may not be the only one who can share Jess’ crush on the music teacher. Deschanel was delightful as always in this movie, even when she pulled the strange teacher-student relationship move and took Jess on a private field trip on a Saturday.

Robb does an excellent job playing the inspiring, individualistic young fifth-grader. She has a creative way of portraying the “new kid” along with making herself look unique, not only in her character but as a young actress. Her confidence stands out compared to the likes of Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.

The movie generates a large fantasy/adventure theme upon viewing but the majority of the film is a growing friendship and playful childhood activities. Their adventures come sporadically, but accordingly, as do the brief fantasy bits which include, but are not limited to, a mountainous landscape, a giant troll and a kingdom of Terabithians.

The characters, Jess and Leslie, are probably the most beautiful children I have ever seen. It is too bad they are fictional because, regardless of the age difference, those are the kind of people I would want to be friends with. Their love for life and strength for hope are what drives the audience to fall in love with them so easily.

When tragedy strikes the pair, tears of the audience in the dark theater were all too apparent, keeping in mind that what might be cheesy to an older audience might be quite dramatic and powerful for children of elementary levels.

Lessons are learned in “Bridge to Terabithia,” like, it’s okay to be friends with the opposite sex; creativity stems from a vivid imagination; and not having a TV doesn’t make you weird.

Teresa Aviles is a student at UW-River Falls.

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