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MiraJeff Crosses THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Ooooops. For some reason, I had it in my head that BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA opened next weekend. So I screwed up and not only forgot to post my own review, but I shelved MiraJeff’s, thinking I’d post it next week as well. I feel doubly bad considering this is a film that could use the support, since so many of our readers seem to have written it off as a “NARNIA rip-off”. It’s anything but, and I’ll let MiraJeff tell you a bit about it while I run finish my own piece to post later today.

Greetings AICN, MiraJeff here to walk across the Bridge to Terabithia. I recall Moriarty mentioning his review was under embargo but since the film came out today and it still hasn’t been posted, I’m taking it upon myself to relay the good news, which is, that this film really surprised me. As a kid, I'd never read the book or even heard of it, so I really had no idea what I was in for, but I'll be damned if this kiddie flick didn't move me to tears. For the rest of the uninitiated like myself, Bridge to Terabithia was a Newbery Award-winning book in the 70's about a couple of kids who invent a fantasy land of make-believe called Terabithia, brimming with giants and other whimsical creatures. The trailers are doing their best to make this thing look like Narnia: The Sequel, but the truth is, it isn't. In fact, the CGI-enhanced fantasy sequences are probably the worst thing about it but kids will turn a blind eye to that sad, head-scratching fact and have fun taking the ride anyways. The real reason Terabithia works is the chemistry of its young leads, Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb, who handle some difficult material with maturity well beyond their years. Hutcherson stars as Jesse, a good-looking, personable kid with a knack for art who for some reason gets picked on at school. He's not the typical dork you see in these movies, or weak in any sense, but a school bully named Janice (Lauren Clinton) really has it out for him, as do two other "tough" kids, Mr. Obnoxious Long Hair and a sturdy redhead who looks like he might be saying "O'Doyle Rules" if this were an Adam Sandler film. Jesse lives in a house dominated by women and his old man (Robert Patrick) is a hard-ass in the way only Robert Patrick can be. Things could be going better for him but they only seem to be getting worse. That is, until the delightful Leslie (Robb) enters the picture as the new kid at school. Her parents are writers so she's a bit more, um, bohemian. As neighbors, Jesse and Leslie share the same bus stop, and it's not long before they're venturing out into the woods together, leaving behind Jesse's adorable little sister (Bailee Madison). The two of them form an instant friendship and soon it becomes quite clear that Leslie has inherited her parents' fantastical imagination. She and Jesse use a rope swing to cross over a stream of some sort, and then they fix up a dilapidated tree house together, making it into a place that is theirs and theirs alone. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to delve into spoilers so that parents know what the deal is when they plunk down their hard-earned cash to take their kids to see this film. Parents should know what they're getting into, and because Disney doesn't want to give away a major plot point, they've cut trailers disguising the real thematic elements of this story. Here's the secret. About 3/5 into the movie, Leslie dies. That's right; Hollywood does the unthinkable and kills a kid. The death sends the film in a completely different direction and I, for one, totally went with it. Death is a scary thing for children (and everyone) and Bridge to Terabithia (and Hutcherson especially) handles the issue with grace. Credit director Gabor Csupo (Rugrats) with realizing this fantastical world and giving it some emotional weight so that the audience can really connect with the characters and feel their pain when the aforementioned tragedy strikes. Robb is a starlet-in-training. I predict she’ll give Dakota Fanning a run for her money one day. They could have a Britney-Christina or Paris-Nicole feud in the next few years. They’ll probably be up for a lot of the same roles too, so here’s to watching that non-existent catfight as it inevitably develops. There’s a real sweetness about her that Fanning lacks, if only because she seems so professional and businesslike already. She’s an “actress” and it’s refreshing to see that Robb is still a kid, even if she does carry herself like a young lady already. Who knows what Hutcherson will grow into but for now I think he’s capable of conveying real emotion onscreen. He really shows off a variety of complex emotions and I think kids will recognize him as a formidable young talent. And I guarantee we’ll be seeing Madison again, as she nearly steals the picture with her sickening cuteness. I wanted to pinch her cheeks like I was her long-lost 23 year-old grandfather. If anyone wanted to make a big screen Madeline adaptation, she’d be perfect. I don’t know where Hollywood finds these kids but they always do a good job, especially Walden Media, whose casting for Narnia was equally impressive. Lastly, the always-welcome Zooey Deschanel has a small role as the object of Jesse’s affection, his music teacher. And yes she still has the most beautiful pair of baby blues in the biz. Is it a perfect film? No. I think back and remember an awful lot of running. Apparently these kids are training for a mythical marathon or something. I guess kids these days just have so much energy, they all run everywhere they go like Forrest Gump. Maybe I was just a lazy 8th grader, I don't know. The CGI is done pretty well for the most part although there are a few shots where it's a bit too obvious that Hutcherson is acting in front of a green screen. The problem with the fantasy sequences is that there’s nothing particularly original or enchanting about them. The world of Terabithia is supposed to encapsulate Jesse and Leslie’s friendship but it’s pretty cut and dry and a little bit boring, considering the slow build-up to its reveal. Honestly it just seemed like an excuse to liven up the sorta bleak story with some snazzy special effects that never fail to put little tushies in seats. But the really wonderful thing about the film is that it never feels cloying or overly sentimental. It doesn't talk down to its audience. Instead, it levels with them. It tells kids that hey, sometimes accidents do happen, and life has to go on. You can still honor a loved one's memory by living life to its fullest. I would absolutely recommend this. It really is a strong family film, and one that children and parents should be able to enjoy. That’ll do it for me, folks. I’ll be back with a look at The Number 23 and a script review of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Parents wishing to thank me for this review can email me. ‘Til next time, this is MiraJeff signing off.
Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 18, 2007, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Loved it.

    by seanny_d

    Snuck into this one after seeing Ghost Rider. Had no idea what I was getting into, but thought it was fantastic. I really wish I gave my money to this movie instead of Ghost Rider, but I'm guessing the theatre employees wouldn't be too happy with me if I asked them to switch my 4 hour old ticket.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 2:22 p.m. CST

    Tera-who?

    by sledgehammer5050

    looked like a re-hash of everything to me...but, never did read the book. i'll give it a shot cause of this review.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Did Stallone direct this movie?

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    MIRAJEFF SUCKS...

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 2:47 p.m. CST

    My Childhood

    by CBWolf

    I read the book as a child and it became one of the most important pieces of literature in my young life. I even created my own Terabithia in a valley near my grandparents house called Karason. I think the sign I made is still there. In any case, I was put off by the trailers for this movie because the CGI sequences they were focusing on seemed to clash with my memory of the novel. I am glad to see they did not just use the novel as an excuse to make a Narnia/Rings rip off, as I feared. I think I'll go watch it now.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 3:07 p.m. CST

    i'm feeling pretty good...

    by THE KNIGHT

    i'm feeling pretty good...

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 3:08 p.m. CST

    Blew me away

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Yeah, I went in thinking it would be a half-baked Narnia. Boy, was I shocked. Pleasantly so. I can't help but think how many uncomfortable car rides home await parents this weekend. This one will be going on my "someday" shelf (to show to my not-yet-born "someday"). Everyone in the cast was awesome, especially the kids. And Zooie. Hubba Hubba Zooie. Take a kleenex or two...you'll need it!

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 3:08 p.m. CST

    It is good

    by GunsForHands

    I liked it, made me tear

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 3:19 p.m. CST

    there already is a 'madeline', mirajeff

    by occula

    and it starred frances mcdormand, for chrissakes! well, although i am the wrong generation for this book, i'm glad all the people who love it so are enjoying the adaptation. i can only hope for the same with 'the dark is rising.'

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 3:23 p.m. CST

    The commercials show 90% of the effects

    by Cymbol

    If you are taking your kids for a "cool" movie they may be surprised that the movie had very little special effects. This has more in common with "My Girl". However, I took my 13 year old son last night, and he loved it. It deals with the trials of growing up. What kid can't relate to that? Highly recommended for wholesome family viewing that doesn't talk down to its audience.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Feh.

    by Stuntman Mike

    Narnia, Harry Potter, Never-Ending Story, Terabithia...evidently kids' movies now equates to "adaptation of lazy, vaguely Tokienesque fantasy stories". I'm tired of all the fantasy stuff, and I'm guessing kids are, too. Break out the kids' sci-fi some more. Or vampires. Or whatevah...just shelve the motherfucking elves and treants for a while before it ruins the genre for a whole generation.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Can you blame them for misrepresenting?

    by CreasyBear

    MiraJeff is right. Kids can appreciate the feeling of an emotionally powerful movie, but it's the FX that'll pique their interest in the first place.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 9:29 p.m. CST

    If they had sold it as a coming of age tearjerker...

    by CerebralAssassin

    ...it wouldn't have made any money this weekend. Isn't it better to misrepresent the film to get asses in seats? Or is it better to sell it as is and have fewer people see this excellent film?

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 9:41 p.m. CST

    Zooey Deschanel...

    by jolaz

    Can make *almost* any movie worth watching.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 10:16 p.m. CST

    Stuntman Mike....

    by Playkins

    <"Narnia, Harry Potter, Never-Ending Story, Terabithia...evidently kids' movies now equates to "adaptation of lazy, vaguely Tokienesque fantasy stories"> So what you're saying is any kids film with fantasy elements is a Tolkien rip-off? What about the fact Narnia originally was published the same year as LOTR? You're arguing a losing point, my friend. It's like saying that they should have quit making action-oriented sci-fi films after star wars. And don't bag on popular movies based on books. At least they get kids to pick up a damned book once in awhile.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 10:39 p.m. CST

    Thanks

    by T 1000 xp professional

    if there is a spoiler warning for the actual review does that mean you guys shouldn't put one for your own comments...this is what happens when i skip the review to the final thoughts and go straight to the talkbacks

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 10:50 p.m. CST

    bacci40 you stupid

    by ETI

    Dakota is a multi millionaire whose movies have earned a billion worldwide. Must make u feel real big to cut down a little girl.

  • Feb. 18, 2007, 11:43 p.m. CST

    dont worry Stuntman Mike didn't even read the review

    by Freakemovie

    ...or else he would've known that THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY A FANTASY MOVIE. Whoever said it was right, this is a lot more similar to "My Girl" than Narnia or Harry Potter or whatever Stuntman Mike mentioned. Now he just comes off looking like an uninformed douche.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 12:41 a.m. CST

    Disgusting and reprehensible

    by godoffireinhell

    This movie is just disgusting and it's sad that it came from Walden Media who I thought aimed to recapture what Di$ney had given up: making movies with strong Christian themes that reaffirm family values. Instead, TERABINTHA shows every adult as evil or as lacking understanding. The family unit cannot be relied upon in this filthy flick. DO NOT WATCH THIS WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 12:46 a.m. CST

    godoffireinhell!!! NEW CATCHPHRASE!!!

    by Playkins

    "This movie is just disgusting and it's sad that it came from _______" I like it! Or, you could just be trolling....

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 12:53 a.m. CST

    ETI

    by TheGhostWhoLurks

    <<Dakota is a multi millionaire whose movies have earned a billion worldwide. Must make u feel real big to cut down a little girl.>> Apparently, she's old enough to decide that she wants her characters to be shown getting raped onscreen... 'cause, of course, that's what REAL actors DO. That pretty much makes her fair game for criticism.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 1:38 a.m. CST

    filthy flick ? Now that's a CATCHPHRASE!

    by Mace Tofu

    godoffireinhell your just trying to get more buts in seats for this film. How FILTHY can it be? it's only rated PG for Christ sake.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 7:03 a.m. CST

    Watched it With the Kids

    by n8f8

    Saturday I took the kids (8,9,10). The reviews about the misleading advertising are true. But I would call this the best Disney live action movie in many years. Beside the deal of really treating serious subjects seriously and honestly, I have to say that some sequences were BRILLIANT. For instance, when the kids are swinging across the river in a rope they did a wonderful job of capturing how actually swinging alters your perceptions - on film. The same is true in the running sequences. Ever run through a dense forest? The feeling of speed is magnified by all the trees flying by. Hard to explain but if you've ever experience it you know what I'm talking about.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 8:14 a.m. CST

    why not just post the review when it comes in

    by purplemonkeydw

    just saying...

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Saw it, loved it.

    by floydtheater07

    I remember reading this book in sixth grade and absolutely falling in love with it. When I saw the marketing for the film, I was worried that the story was dramatically altered, but not at all. This film is remarkably faithful to the book. It is almost scene-for-scene the same story (with a few small differences). Haha, seeing this movie in a theatre filled with families expecting a Narnia-like fantasy movie was amusing. Not a dry eye in the house when the credits rool on this one. I highly recommend it, and it is far from filthy.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 9:35 a.m. CST

    FINISH HIM!

    by Spandau Belly

    Uwe Boll wins!<br><br>Flawless victory!

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 10 a.m. CST

    ROUND TWO! FIGHT!

    by Spandau Belly

    MiraJeff strikes back a plot summary!

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Sold Out (the good way)

    by ookla the mok

    Saw it at the 5 pm show Saturday. Manager came in to ask everyone to scootch together since the showing had been sold out (second time that day). He voiced complete surprise at the film selling out. I hope it does good box because it is a wonderful family movie (although our youngest (6) was probably a little too young for the major themes).

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Excellent Book

    by Saluki

    It started with the poster. Looked odd but unique. Then the commercials, jam packed with special effects. The name sounded so familiar to me... And then it all came rushing back. It was based on a book! A really good one! One that read nothing like a children's novel, and even better than most "adult" novels. It was confirmed early on that the movie was very true to the book, so I was happy... But all the showings were sold out this weekend. DAMN. I'll see it this week for sure.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 1:31 p.m. CST

    godoffireinhell

    by Thomas Cromwell

    Was that post of your's for real friend? If it was, then you seem to have forgetten that the primary existence of companies like Disney AND Walden is to MAKE MONEY, NOT promote a political or moral stance despite what they might claim. I doubt that any children thar see BTT will be corrupted in any way. So chill friend and find your neutral space.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 6:47 p.m. CST

    I'm so glad no more motherfuckers are saying "First"

    by ChileanSeaBass

    And on top of that can we begin to Add Rome and great telivision to the rest of the main fatures...out!

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 6:49 p.m. CST

    I'm so glad no more motherfuckers are saying "First"

    by ChileanSeaBass

    And on top of that can we begin to Add Rome and great telivision to the rest of the main fatures...out!

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Very misled

    by beelkay

    I was under the impression that this was like Narnia in a way, but it turns out to just be the kids' imaginations. Also, I don't like movies where one of the main sympathetic characters dies, especially a kid, so I was very disappointed. Really not what I was expecting.

  • Feb. 19, 2007, 7:07 p.m. CST

    Probably forgot to post....

    by Dazzler69

    Since Ghost Rider was on 44.5 mil in viewers minds!

  • Feb. 20, 2007, 1:20 a.m. CST

    "I think back and remember an awful lot of running."

    by DorkmanScott

    Incidentally, in the book, Jesse trains all summer to be the fastest runner in school, only to be beaten by the new girl, Leslie, and that's how they first meet.

  • Feb. 20, 2007, 1:46 a.m. CST

    When will Moriarty ever post review?

    by svefngenglar

    This was a great movie. Loved it.

  • Feb. 20, 2007, 10:21 p.m. CST

    This movie is a fraud!

    by Messyjoe

    Actually the review is quite accurate. It is a well made movie, good direction, good acting. HOWEVER Disney is ripping off millions of kids! The ads totally imply that there is a magic plot which of course will draw the kids. Well the kids I took hated it! There is exactly 30 seconds of magic critters on the scene! You say what is the rest? Well it's a dreary rural farm scene worrying about bills and bullying. Sure kids love that don't they!! It is false advertising for which there should be a class action suit, from all the parents who get sucked into watching this and have to listen to the kids complain later. I didn't expect it from Disney, but now you know anyone sells outs. Was there no money for CG? There have been a series of these half reality/half magic films; Pan's Labyrinth, Narnia, Arthur and the Invisibles. In each only the magic bits move the movie forward. When not on the screen, they all drag. Sure Pan's is getting rave reviews. After all Spanish cruelty and childish magical dreams go so well together. If you say that is not for kids, you bet the others are, and they all disappointed.

  • March 3, 2007, 4:43 a.m. CST

    BRIDGE TO TARABITHIA RULES, BABY!!!

    by wackybantha

    I haven't teared up that much since E.T.