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Bridge To Terabithia

Bridge To Terabithia

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director / Writer / Producer; Audio Commentary By Cast; Cast & Crew Interviews; Behind The Book – Featurette; Bringing Terabithia To Life – Featurette; ‘Keep Your Mind Wide Open’ Anna Sophia Robb – Music Video; Gallery Containing 25 Images Of Competition Winners; Creature Paintings And Credit Roll For Additional 100 Winners Names And School; Icon Films Trailer Reel.

YOUNG film fans anticipating a fantasy-style adventure akin to The Chronicles of Narnia might be slightly upset to find that Bridge To Terabithia shys away from such spectacle – but their disappointment will be short-lived given the heartfelt nature of the story that ensues.

Based upon Katherine Paterson’s popular US novel of the same name – which remains relatively unknown in the UK – Gabor Csupo’s movie is a touching coming-of-age experience that’s a triumph of imagination over special effects.

Fifth grader Jesse Aaron (Josh Hutcherson) dreams of becoming the fastest runner in his class only to find his hopes dashed by the arrival of new girl Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) who outruns everyone around her.

But his frustration soon gives way to friendship as the two kids bond and subsequently discover a bridge to the woods that enables them to create their own imaginary world – called Terabithia – from which they find respite from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Their escapism is short-lived, however, as the pressures of family, school bullies and adolescence take their toll in different ways.

The best thing about Bridge To Terabithia is the way it engages the heart and the brain without resorting to anything too obvious or gimmicky.

There are special effects supplied by Narnia creators Weta Digital but they’re kept in short supply and merely serve to provide a useful indicator of the children’s imagination.

Instead, Csupo opts to keep things personal, examining the emotional highs and lows of growing up in honest and believable fashion.

Both Hutcherson and Robb are likeable leading kids and their friendship is genuinely endearing. But they also play well off the older cast members, most notably Robert Patrick as Jesse’s strict father and Zooey Deschanel’s encouraging teacher.

It means the film packs a heavier emotional punch once the dramatic stuff kicks in.

Weta, for their part, create some beautiful special effects – such as an army of golden dragonfly warriors – that lend proceedings a mystical element without ever threatening to detract from the performances.

And there’s a great deal to be said for the more traditional approach of proceedings, which invites younger viewers to exercise their imagination while making the most of the real world at their disposal.

Only the songs that litter the soundtrack sound misplaced and strike the only duff note in an otherwise enchanting experience.

Viewers will be pleasantly surprised at how much they come to care…

Certificate: PG
Running time: 95mins