Bridge to Terabithia, based on the 1997 novel by Katherine Paterson, is a touching story about two children, both social outcasts, who together escape their daily struggles by visiting the imaginary land of Terabithia. In this pretend world, Jesse and Leslie reign as the King and Queen and spend much of their time fixing up their castle and battling imaginary creatures. The movie is an emotional tale and a terrific film. My only complaint is that the films marketing is completely misleading (more on that later).
As the only boy among five children, Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson, from RV) just doesnt fit in. His love of art conflicts with his fathers (Robert Patrick, Terminator) hard working blue-collar ethics. His days are spent being tormented on the bus by 8th graders and being picked on by his classmates. His hopes of proving his mastery of, well, anything (in this case, a foot race) are dashed when new-girl-in-school Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb, Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) beats all the boys. Leslie is no social butterfly herself; her unique clothing style alienates her from her classmates, and her parents are authors who lock themselves away for days on end working on fiction novels. The two social misfits quickly become friends, spending their after school hours exploring the woods behind their home an area that the two dub Terabithia.
In this new imaginary land, Jesses bullying classmates become evil critters to be fought, and Leslie imagines dragonflies as a hoard of friendly warriors. Eventually, the twos imaginations are no match for reality. When a major character within the film dies, the scope of the film changes dramatically and this is where my complaint about the films marketing begins.
Those who have seen the trailer (like myself) imagine Bridge to Terabithia to fall somewhere between The Wizard of Oz and Narnia; however, the trailer is intentionally misleading. Although the overwhelming majority of the movies commercials show the imaginary land of Terabithia, no more than fifteen minutes of the film take place there. In fact, the wide-angle, cinematic shot of the Castle of Terabithia actually appears in the films closing shot!
I do think Bridge to Terabithia is a fantastic film. That being said, I also feel like the victim of the old bait-and-switch technique. Had I known the true subject, scope and situations presented within the film, I would have taken my wife to see it instead of my five-year-old son Mason. While theres nothing particularly inappropriate for a young child to see, chances are the majority of the films themes will go directly over their heads, leaving them pining for more of the imaginary place the trailers promised us.
Or, as Mason put it as we were leaving the theater, Daddy, did we just see the right movie?