Josh Hutcherson as Jesse Aarons
AnnaSophia Robb as Leslie Burke
Zooey Deschanel as Ms. Edmonds
Robert Patrick as Jack Aarons
Bailee Madison as May Belle Aarons
Katrina Cerio as Nancy Aarons
Devon Wood as Brenda Aarons
Emma Fenton as Ellie Aarons
Grace Brannigan as Joyce Aarons
Latham Gaines as Bill Burke
Judy McIntosh as Judy Burke
Patricia Aldersley as Grandma Burke
Lauren Clinton as Janice Avery
Isabelle Rose Kircher as Carla
Cameron Wakefield as Scott Hoager
A strong cast and imaginative story make "Bridge to Terabithia" a movie well worth checking out. It may be a little too intense for younger kids, though.
This film is based on the children's book by Katherine Paterson.
Jesse is a pre-teen living in a small town. He doesn't have any friends at school, he's picked on by bullies, he's not close to his father, and his family can't even afford to buy him new shoes. He actually has to use his sister's pink tennis shoes. Jesse's only joy is drawing.
All that changes when Leslie moves to town. She's a free spirit and an imaginative writer, not to mention the fastest kid in school. Despite all this, she's excluded at school, too. It doesn't take long for Jesse and Leslie to form a friendship. With Leslie's imagination and Jesse's skill at drawing, the two create an imaginary world called Terabithia located in some nearby woods. The two retreat there to play games and escape from their real world problems. But the two friends soon find out that their imaginary games will help them with their real world problems, too.
"Bridge to Terabithia" is rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language.
I never read the book "Bridge to Terabithia," so I didn't have any particular nostalgia for it like other people might. In fact, I went into this film knowing almost nothing about it. What I found was a nice little movie about friendship, family, and imagination. I was even a bit surprised how deep the film got when it started discussing Jesus, the Bible, and whether or not people go to hell. For a movie that only minutes before featured evil squirrels attacking children, it's quite a change in tone and content. Yet it manages to handle these dramatic shifts very easily.
A big part of the success of "Bridge to Terabithia" is its fantastic cast. AnnaSophia Robb stands out yet again as Leslie Burke. She perfectly portrays Leslie's free spirit. And as she describes the imaginary creatures of this make-believe land, it's very easy to jump on board her fantasy story. Josh Hutcherson is also excellent as Jesse Aarons. Much of the movie depends on the quality of his performance and he's more than up to the challenge. He handles Jesse's joy, anger, and depression in a convincing manner. The supporting cast also really does a good job. Bailee Madison really steals every scene she's in as May Belle Aarons, Jesse's little sister. She has spunk, humor, and a great spirit. Zooey Deschanel is also good in her brief role as Ms. Edmonds. (I never had a music teacher willing to sing pop songs in my school!) Robert Patrick is also excellent as Jack Aarons, Jesse's father. He plays the character with a perfect mix of love and frustration. He could have very easily been the villain of the story, but Patrick steers his performance away from that.
The special effects of the film are quite imaginative. While I wouldn't say there's anything technically landmark about them, they are artistically very cool. You see forest creatures turned into fearsome imaginary creatures, trees turned into trolls, and more. If you like special effects or fantasy, you'll want to check this out.
What Didn't Work:
You may not want to take younger kids to this film. Some of the imaginary creatures are pretty scary. I took my 8-year-old to the movie and she was fine. I wouldn't have dared take my 5 year old. Also note that the movie takes a rather dramatic turn towards the end like many "beloved children's novel's" often do. I don't want to spoil it here, but that twist, too, may be more appropriate for older kids.
The Bottom Line:
"Bridge to Terabithia" should please fans of the book and anyone that likes fantasy films. If you're either, you'll want to see it.