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|BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (director: Gabor Csupo; screenwriters: Jeff Stockwell/David Paterson/based on the book by Katherine Paterson; cinematographer: Michael Chapman; editor: John Gilbert; music: Aaron Zigman; cast: Josh Hutcherson (Jess Aarons), AnnaSophia Robb (Leslie Burke), Zooey Deschanel (Ms. Edmonds), Robert Patrick (Jesse Aarons Sr.), Bailey Madison (May Belle Aarons), Kate Butler (Nancy Aarons), Cameron Wakefield (Scott Hoager), Lauren Clinton (Janice Avery), Kate Butler (Mary Aarons), ; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Hal Lieberman/Lauren Levine/Mr. Paterson; Buena Vista Home Entertainment; 2007)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gabor Csupo, his first movie feature, mostly known for his work on "The Simpsons" and "Rugrats," helms this pleasing magical coming-of-age kidpic as a homage to the imagination. It's based on the 1970's book by Katherine Paterson and written by Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson (Ms. Paterson’s son); the story is updated to the present.
In rural Lark Creek, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., the introverted eleven-year-old Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), a 5th grader and aspiring artist, lives on a farm with his economically struggling folks (Robert Patrick & Kate Butler) and four sisters. Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) is the wealthy cute new girl in town who is Jesse's next door neighbor and classmate; she's labeled by the students as the smart oddball whose writer parents don't own a TV. The two misfit neighbors are bullied in school by older students and are drawn together as friends. In the wooded area by their residence Leslie takes Jesse on an adventure across a river where the only way on or off is to swing across a creek using a rope tied to a tree. There they find a treehut and rebuild it. Leslie through her vivid writer's imagination transforms the woods into the fantasy world they dub Terabithia, a magical kingdom inhabited by trolls, living trees and a sinister Dark Lord. This fantasy trip helps the two of them in dealing with the everyday struggles of the real world and of being different.
The film sensitively gets that a school bully can make the school experience hellish, a teacher's encouragement can make learning fun and parents you can communicate with can make growing up a little easier. The performances are very good from everybody; in particular the supporting performances by the following are right on the money: Zooey Deschanel as an animated music teacher who knows how to reach the kids and Bailey Madison as the deliciously cute and inquisitive youngest one in Jesse's family.
REVIEWED ON 1/29/2008 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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