Bridge to Terabithia – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com.


Directed by
Gabor Csupo

Cast
Josh Hutcherson ………. Jesse Aarons
AnnaSophia Robb ………. Leslie Burke
Zooey Deschanel ………. Ms. Edmonds
Robert Patrick ………. Jesse Aarons senior
Bailee Madison ………. May Belle Aarons
Kate Butler ………. Nancy Aarons
Devon Wood ………. Brenda Aarons
Emma Fenton ………. Ellie Aarons
Grace Brannigan ………. Joyce Aarons
Latham Gaines ………. Bill Burke
Judy McIntosh ………. Judy Burke
Patricia Aldersley ………. Grandma Burke
Lauren Clinton ………. Janice Avery

Running Time: 94 minutes
Rated PG
DVD Release date: June 19, 2007

Like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia tells the tale of kids who concoct a fantasy world to cope with the problems of the real world. That said, don’t come to Terabithia expecting a movie like LotR or Narnia, even though it was marketed as such.

My daughter started watching the film while I was busy doing other things. Each time I checked in on the movie, fairly mundane things were happening: a school race, people eating, kids riding on a bus, people painting a room. I thought, “hey aren’t they supposed to be a land of wonder?”

The story is centered on the relationship between the two main characters, Leslie and Jess, and not so much the fantasy world they create. Those who have read the book already know this thing. I, being of the male persuasion, have never read the book, nor The Island of the Blue Dolphins, nor that book about the Jewish girl with fish scale shoes. In junior high I was far too busy reading manly things like Hitchhiker’s Guide, A Night in the Lonesome October, and the hilarious Needful Things.

Unlike Narnia, this film makes no pretenses that its fantasy world is a real place. Terabithia is a product of the children’s imaginations, and is treated as such. For those keeping score:

Terabithia – Imaginary place treated as such
Narnia – Imaginary place, semi-professed to be real in the context of the books/movie
Dragonland – Real in the context of the TV show
St. Elsewhere – Imaginary world of created by an autistic kid
Pan’s Labyrinth – Ambiguous
Labyrinth – Just a regular day at Bowie’s house

So, Bridge to Terabithia isn’t quite at home in the fantasy genre; it is more aptly placed in the “coming-of-age by means of an inspirational friend” genre. In that sense, the story is a fairly good one. Characters and situations are shown warts and all, and situations have quite a bit of reality and weight to them. That being said, those familiar with this particular milieu should expect the story’s tear-jerking third act.

While the source material is strong, the adaptation is mediocre. Hungarian Gabor Csupo isn’t much of a director, having spent the bulk of his career producing “Rugrats” cartoons. Here, he seems content to pass the time with liberal use of bland music and montage sequences. The film’s writers didn’t bother to adapt the story such that it felt like an actual movie s opposed to a half-heartedly filmed novel. Heck, they didn’t even make allowances for the 30 year gap between book and film. So despite taking place in the present day, there are numerous moments that seem more at home in the ’70s.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag, which makes it great when judged on the curve of kids/family movies. Robert “T-1000” Patrick pretty much re-does his distant, emotionally abusive dad performance from Walk the Line. Zooey Deschanel is adequate as the “hot teacher,” a role that could’ve gone horribly awry in lesser hands. I really like Zathura‘s Josh Hutcherson in the lead role. He always seems like a real kid, he’s got a bit of a rough edge to him, and he doesn’t give off any of that “creepy kid actor” vibe that I get from Dakota Fanning types. I’m less enthused with AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and not just because of her silly name. Her performance is a bit like, well, imagine a tiny Brittany Murphy playing the Katherine Hepburn role in Bringing up Baby. You get twice the crazy and half the charm. Plus, she doesn’t seem particularly well cast here. She is far too pretty and polished to play the par of an outsider. In kidland, looks tend to over-come psychoses.

Overall, it is far from a bad film. There are a lot of good things going on thematically, they re just presented awkwardly. It’s best to go into the movie thinking along the lines of A Separate Peace, or Anne of Green Gables, or Little Women and not of The Hobbit or that Potter fellow.

The DVD

The DVD extras are fairly boring. We get a Music Video by the film’s star AnnaSophia Robb, which I guess means that she is a singer/actress.

Or maybe actress/singer.

There is a bland 6-minute featurette about the film’s digital effects.

There is a 15-minute featurette featuring the actors, the book’s author and some random teachers talking about the themes of the book. It’s about as exciting as unbuttered toast.

We got some standard trailers and the Disney Fastplay feature.

The bulk of the special features lie in the audio tracks. We get English, French and Spanish, as well as two commentary tracks. The first commentary is by director Csupo, writer Jeff Stockwell, and Produce Hal Lieberman. It’s not very interesting, unless you like hearing people with funny accents.

The second commentary track is the far more interesting of the two. It is by the two child stars and Kiwi producer Laura Levine. Hutcherson and Robb seem to be a bit smarter than their adult counterparts, and Levine is there to both babysit and drop Xena references. (Bridge to Terabithia was filmed in New Zealand.)

The only other thing worth noting is that the both audio commentaries are subtitled in English French and Spanish. You get 9 subtitle options!

9!

12 if you count the fastplay subtitles.

The DVD Lounge’s Rating for Bridge to Terabithia
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

6
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

5
OVERALL
6
(NOT AN AVERAGE)