Leslie, who is the daughter of novelist parents, and can pretty much beat any boy in a running race- must find escapism to a realm of sheer imagination when parents are just too busy. Based on the best selling children’s book by author Katherine Paterson, Director Gabor Csupo (Rugrats Go Wild) and Disney, take the viewer on a journey into the vibrant minds of youth.
In Jesse’s world, fifth grade is a place where he is not appreciated, basically friendless, harassed by the school bully constantly. His only outlets are his artwork (which none seems to notice) and a music class led by Ms. Edmonds (Zooey Deschanel), whom he has a crush on.
His life begins to be altered when a new girl is added into the mix- a doe eyed, soulful artist in her own right, Leslie. Jesse first pays attention to Leslie upon her becoming the victor in an “all boys” foot race which she quickly amends. It’s only natural that these two creative souls gravitate toward each other, to not only combine talents but to become ultimately friends.
Upon entering the local woods, it becomes a virtual paint palette for their active imaginations. The duo stake claim to the land and create the legendary Terabithia, a place for just themselves. Serving as its rulers, Jess and Leslie battle dark forces, meet trolls and giants. To enter their mystical dominion, is as simple as swinging over on a “magical rope”.
Jesse finding a new level of confidence, motivation and strength in the land of his creation, he takes Terabithia into his heart and brings it home, much to the disapproval of his father. Scolding his son for his daydreaming, compassion (when a raccoon came to feed on his father’s grown food and Jess wanted to save its life) and lack of practicality, forces Jess to now doubt in his own mind whether he should stop this seemingly pointless game. Leslie won’t hear of it and continues to believe in the world she’s queen of.
The bond the two children have is pristine and untainted by their world’s negativity. It’s a pervasive innocence which just moves us and touches the heart. We notice a change in Jesse where he begins to take things in stride, sees the value of hard work and even shows genuine care for his baby sister- May Belle (Bailee Madison). Jesse grows as a character and everyone is affected by his maturation.
Several themes are interwoven into the story where despite the trailer for the film alluding to a Chronicles of Narnia, where we delve deep into a magical world, learn of its inhabitants and embark upon a quest, in Bridge to Terabithia, we stay pretty much grounded in both worlds (on the bridge so to speak), where we are free to experience an equal balance of Jess and Leslie’s imagination yet be well aware of the problems back at home.
With minimal CGI, Bridge to Terabithia still captivates through the bond of friendship. Josh Hutcherson (Zathura) does a splendid job as Jess, and AnnaSophia (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) is equally as endearing as Leslie whose mind is flowery, a true artistic soul. Of special note, is Bailee Madison who honestly steals the show as the adorably loquacious May Belle. Bridge to Terabithia shines as a lesson to be learned by adults from children, where a true sanctuary resides in the creativity of individual.