Bridge to Terabithia
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Gabor Csupo
scr Jeff Stockwell, David Paterson
with Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Lauren Clinton, Bailee Madison, Kate Butler, Latham Gaines, Judy McIntosh, Emma Fenton, Devon Wood, Grace Brannigan
release US 16.Feb.07, UK 4.May.07
07/US Disney 1h35
Bridge to Terabithia
Catch a falling star: Robb and Hutcherson.

hutcherson deschanel patrick

Bridge to Terabithia This is a sensitive and moving teen drama about dealing with bullying, loneliness and grief. Admittedly, it's a hard sell, but Disney isn't doing this fine film any favours by billing it as a magical fantasy adventure.

Jesse (Hutcherson) is a gifted pre-teen boy who's deeply misunderstood, picked on by the "cool" kids at school and ignored by parents (Patrick and Butler) who are struggling to make ends meet. Well, not so much ignored as lost amid his four sisters. Then new classmate Leslie (Robb) moves in next door. She's another imaginative outsider, and together Jesse and Leslie create a fantasy world called Terabithia, where they can escape from school bullies, preoccupied parents and the general confusion of puberty.

Rather than indulging in lots of flashy effects and pointless action, the filmmakers cleverly keep Jesse and Leslie's daydream playworld in the background, letting it colour and shade the thoroughly grounded story. It's a beautifully gripping tale of young people trying to make their way through the obstacles life throws at them. And these aren't simplistic movie-world obstacles; they're profoundly real issues that adults and children can readily identify with.

The breadth and depth of the screenplay is enriched by solid performances from Hutcherson and Robb, lively and energetic young actors who draw out the humour and adventure in resonant, natural ways. And they also have the chops to deal with some extremely meaty twists in the tale, including facing up to the school's biggest meanie (Clinton), dealing with Jesse's adorably bratty little sister (Madison) and responding to a genuinely concerned teacher (Deschanel).

This is a story about perceptive young people who are just beginning to realise that they may have a gift rather than a curse. Their artistic leanings make them outcasts in their small society, but also draw them to each other and help them make sense of their family relationships. The film's fantasy elements are subtle and extremely clever when seen in this light. In many ways this is a kinder, gentler, less outrageously inventive Pan's Labyrinth. But it's just as connected to the actual rawness of ordinary life. Just don't expect a trip to Narnia.

cert PG themes, some violence 24.Feb.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall