Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, Lauren Clinton
Directed by: Gabor Csupo
You know what movies are the hardest to review? Those that aren’t made for your demographic. It’s tough to decide how much flack you give a movie that wasn’t designed for your consumption while still holding it up to a certain standard. Since I just do this reviewing stuff for fun, I don’t often come across this problem, as I generally don’t watch movies that are transparently geared toward a different demographic, but every once in awhile I come across one, like Bridge to Terabithia that I end up having some interest in, and I don’t always know what to do with them.
I’d heard good things about the movie, and my wife was somewhat interested in seeing it, so I added it to my queue then watched it with very little expectations. I didn’t even know what it was about going in, other than it was some kind of tween fantasy movie. Even this expectation turned out to be a little off (largely due to its misleading marketing campaign), as it isn’t quite a fantasy movie in the Narnia/Golden Compass fashion, although given the relative success of movies like those and Eragon, you can understand why the studio would make it seem as though it were.
Instead, the movie follows Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) a small-town middle-schooler who goes through life either ignored or taunted by his siblings and classmates due to his withdrawn nature and his farmer-family’s financial situation. Things improve for him when the quirky new girl next door Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) befriends him, and together the two use their imagination to create Terabithia, a fantasy world they use to escape their sometimes frustrating real lives.
So there is a fantasy element, in a very literal sense. But mostly it’s a movie about adolescence, and how lonely it can be, and the strong bonds of friendship for those of that age. The result is a movie that is ideal for tweens, with a surprisingly darker element that gives it some heft, but not enough to make it all that interesting to me. The performances are decent for the young actors, but also as flawed as you’d expect from most child actors. Robb brings a good energy to her part, but Hutcherson is mostly a blank slate. A lot of the supporting characters are presented in broad strokes, without any nuance that would make the movie more interesting or relatable for an older audience.
In the end, it was a decent enough movie that I believe to be an admirable effort for the target audience. It delivers a strong message for younger viewers, without patronizing toward them. But it isn’t an excellent movie by any means, nor is it one that transcends demographics to offer something for all audiences. So kudos to Disney and Walden Media for hitting their target, but I don’t really recommend it to anyone over the age of 16.