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Bridge to Terabithia
"Narnia" clone with some potential
Bridge to Terabithia
A Disney Family Film "Bridge to Terabithia".
OPENING WEEKEND: $28,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $105,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

September 27th, 2006: Eleven-year-old Jesse Aaron (Josh Hutcherson) has spent the entire summer training to become the fastest runner in the fifth grade. During the year’s first schoolyard race, he is sure that he will win. Much to his dismay, however, he is beaten, and by a girl no less. Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb), the race’s victor, is a newcomer to the neighborhood and a total outsider. She comes from a home that doesn’t even have a television set. At first, Jesse is upset about losing the race, but he soon finds himself sticking up for the girl and he and Leslie soon become inseparable friends. While he teaches her about life in their small town, she introduces him to her books and to her world of imagination. The two create Terabithia – a place full of magical creatures and enchanting forests. In their kingdom, they are the king and queen and can live free from the oppressive conditions set by the real world. Their blissful happiness is interrupted when an unspeakable tragedy befalls one of them, forcing the other to gather all the strength in order to cope with the unforeseen heartbreak.

What to Expect: The Disney film is based on a book of the same name written by Katherine Paterson in 1977. Over the years, Paterson has become known and respected as a fine children’s book author and has received both the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal twice in her lifetime. Bridge to Terabithia is one of the works that was awarded the latter distinction. The John Newbery Medal is an annual literary award handed out by the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association to the author of the most outstanding American book for children. It is considered the most prestigious award a children’s book author can receive in the United States. In an attempt to personally find meaning in an unexpected tragedy, Paterson spent a year writing the novel after her 8-year-old son’s best friend was struck and killed by lightening. The book is considered a beautiful and poignant tale of friendship and courage and has already been adapted into a movie on one occasion back in 1987 as a one-hour PBS special.

Article continues below

David Paterson, the son of the author of the novel, and Jeff Stockwell wrote the screenplay for the film. Stockwell’s most interesting credit is the feature The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, which was released a few years back and starred Emile Hirsch, Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, and Jodie Foster. It was a relatively small, but successful production – a lively and amusing yarn about the many charms of going through puberty and dealing with authority. Gabor Csupo will make his live-action directing debut with Bridge to Terabithia. He has plenty of experience dealing with children’s entertainment, however, having created Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” and “The Wild Thornberrys.” He has also long been involved on “The Simpsons” as both animator and producer. To help compensate for his lack of experience, skilled cinematographer Michael Chapman, who has shot such memorable and stylish pictures as Taxi Driver, The Fugitive, and Raging Bull, has been assigned to aid the novice director behind the lens.

Of course, Bridge to Terabithia couldn’t possibly be considered a fantasy tale nowadays without employing the spectacular and recently quite trendy New Zealand locations for the setting. Just like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia before it, the film was shot in stunning West Auckland, New Zealand. Additionally, the visual effects on the picture were performed by New Zealand company Weta Digital, which is responsible for the Oscar-winning effects in both King Kong and Lord of the Rings. There’s no doubt that Bridge to Terabithia should be a vivid and sumptuous visual experience.

Whenever I hear that the story is set in magical locations amongst extraordinary creatures that range from trolls to giants, there is always danger that the film could become a laughable Lord of the Rings clone. Certainly, Bridge to Terabithia doesn’t appear to have the same high profile production that The Chronicles of Narnia had. It will have to make full use of the story, which does hold one very strong and vital element that seems even uncharacteristic by Hollywood standards.


The twist in the book, which should actually be fairly well known to anyone who has read up on the movie at all, is that Leslie dies tragically in a storm while trying to reach Jesse in their hideaway. It was she that introduced Jesse to Terabithia and her untimely demise leaves the poor boy alone and filled with both sorrow and anger. The remainder of the story becomes a touching and deeply emotional journey, as Jesse must reluctantly accept the fate and move forward from the harrowing experience.


As long as Disney doesn’t get any ideas to soften anything up, this could prove to be a very moving kids film with an honest, hopeful, and quite poignant final act.

In Conclusion: The creatures, the New Zealand settings, and the general framework of this story simply don’t move me. It all fits too easily within what could be dismissed simply as a Hollywood fad right now. Bridge to Terabithia may have some difficulty separating itself from the LOTR clones, but I’m sure that Disney will do a fine job of promoting the film. At the same time, the plot hinges on a development of unexpected significance that could take the story to new and fascinating places not frequently explored in feel-good family pictures. The film could benefit from some positive word-of-mouth once audiences get a taste of the somewhat more challenging subject matter. Not to worry though. Since it’s a Disney picture, it’s not likely to be a downer.

Similar Titles: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Willow, The Secret Garden, The Goonies
February 16th, 2007 (wide)
June 19th, 2007 (DVD)

Walt Disney Pictures

Gabor Csupo

Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick

Total: 164 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Kids & Family

Click here to view site

Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language






Bridge to Terabithia at RottenTomatoes.com

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