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Review

Childhood favorite comes to life in 'Bridge to Terabithia'

February 22, 2007

When I first heard about “Bridge to Terabithia,” my curiosity wasn’t all that piqued. On top of being yet another cinematic tale of fantasy for the kiddies, this is the latest production from Walden Media, who’ve apparently decided to adapt every children’s book that enjoyed the most remote hint of popularity into a flick.

Having read the novel in middle school ( not remembering the slightest bit of it), I held out for a little hope that “Bridge to Terabithia” would help revitalize the dying live-action family movie genre. Alas, with an unspectacular sense of imagination and tired story, “Bridge to Terabithia” merely joins the rank of the other mediocre attempts of its kind on the market.

Josh Hutcherson plays Jesse, a grade school kid whose escape from a world of bullies and troubles at home is through sketching a number of imaginative creations.
One day, he finds a kindred spirit in the form of Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), a new girl with an equally bright mind and a knack for writing. These kids become fast friends and, after learning they live next door to each other, head deep into the wilderness to let their imaginations run wild. They eventually form their own private kingdom called Terabithia, a land populated with monstrous trolls, insect warriors and the mysterious “Dark Master.”

Through their adventures in Terabithia, Jesse and Leslie learn to handle problems in the real world, although a tragedy occurs that threatens to destroy their creation forever.

In the pantheon of recent fantasy flicks, “Bridge to Terabithia” doesn’t have an angle to its name.

It goes without saying that a movie doesn’t necessarily need a gimmick to be good, but an intriguing hook to lure viewers in and keep them interested would be nice. “Bridge to Terabithia” stakes out territory other films of its kind have treaded over various times before. What it brings to the table are some ruminations on faith and spirituality, but Disney and Walden Media already played the religious card (and much better, at that) with the first “Chronicles of Narnia” movie.

Instead of coming across as thought-provoking, these out-of-place moments make “Bridge to Terabithia” almost grind to a halt, and the story’s dramatic turning point seems to come out of nowhere. In the meantime, it rehashes all those elements familiar to kiddie movies (tormenting bullies, jaded parents, etc.), becoming more like a checklist than an actual movie.

The special effects are decent, the leading kids give alright performances.

The message of “Bridge to Terabithia” is earnest enough to tap into your imagination, which alone makes it better than a good chunk of the pandering crap Hollywood calls “family entertainment.” The storytelling approach, though, leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s ironic how a flick that’s all about enriching one’s imagination comes across as fairly unimaginative.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.

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