Suspend your disbelief
from Edinburgh, Scotland
, 17 May 2007
Hands Up Please for all those of you who think that Bridge to Terabithia is a fantasy graphic adventure set in a fairy-tale land stumbled upon by two children with vivid imaginations.
Almost all of you, I thought so. Thats what Disney wanted you to think, you see; thats the way they marketed it. Dont worry, I fell for it too. I was ready for interesting fantasy characters and great world-changing battles. Didnt happen though, did it?
But thats just Disney playing at being multinational conglomerates and trying to rip the money from peoples pockets any which way they can, we cant blame them for that, can we? Luckily their hoodwink tactics have no bearing on the writing and the production of this movie; and even those of us who have been duped into the big comfy armchairs with our large salted popcorn and large sugar water get to enjoy a good two hours of old-fashioned family entertainment, complete with a message from the heart and an overwhelming sense of spirit.
This entire film gives you the feel of an eighties Disney movie: family relationships, fantastical happenings, emotional awakenings - you know the stuff, the same feeling you used to get from watching the Littlest Hobo or for some, Highway to Heaven. This is no big surprise as the story comes from a 1977 book of the same name. A lot of people knew this before they entered the theatre and therefore knew what to expect. Silly me.
The book follows the same plot as our film, which takes place in the real world and concerns the newborn friendship between Jess and Leslie. Jess is an artist and Leslie is a story-teller, so when they start to get along it blossoms into a flurry of imaginative activity very quickly and they are soon off fighting the Dark Lord in their magic kingdom. This kingdom is not like Oz or Narnia however, but consists merely of some scary looking trees, a few rogue squirrels, some evil crows and a tree house. The use of imagination is strongly suggested by our characters and the computer visuals are kept limited by the production team, making it firmly understood that what we are dealing with here are real people and real situations. This is vital to the plot as Jess and Leslie use their time and experience in their fantasy world to good effect when they are faced with similarly difficult situations at school and at home. Through the confidence and trust they are building with each other they start to overcome all of their other demons.
You may by now be thinking to yourself, Well, thats a bit tame isnt it? and sure enough this is not your frills, spills, superfluous sells, kind of affair; but just wait for the kicker at the end of the story. Watch the childrens burgeoning relationship flourish with unexpected enthusiasm and joy; marvel at the wonder and contentment of a partnership that knows freedom and expression which gives birth to happiness; then watch what happens next and tell me that youre not more affected than all of the other Harry wizards, Spider heroes garbage. Tell me then what kind of stories we should be giving our children.
After the initial disappointment of Bridge to Terabithia not being what I thought it was going to be, it showed itself to be a very thoughtful, intelligent, incisive movie which used its best talents to best effect to realise the vision appropriate for the style of plot and themes. The acting was excellent by both young leads, helping you to believe in the magic of the imagination. The situations were realistically drawn in the real world and wonderfully realised in Terabithia. The feeling of the themes hit home bang on target, affecting me in the cinema and staying with me afterwards. Beside Lady in the Water this stands out as the best story-telling fantasy in recent years.
Take your kids to see it and then talk to them about it afterwards.
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