‘Terabithia’ is a bridge to remember
Bring your tissues. If you’ve read “Bridge to Terabithia,” the 1977 children’s book by Katherine Paterson, you’ll know what’s in store.You also won’t be disappointed. While the cinematic version of the story has a pretty hokey soundtrack and a few of the auxiliary cast members could use some acting lessons, director Gabor Csupo’s “Bridge to Terabithia” stays true to the novel. The film, while lacking the garden of delicious details that books always provide, is easily as emotionally evocative as its print namesake. This could be in part because the screenplay was co-written by Paterson’s son David, who also produced the film and is the one to whom his mother originally dedicated her novel. In the book, Paterson makes a point to also dedicate the book to her son’s best childhood friend, a girl named Lisa Hill, on whom the character Leslie Burke is based.Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) is the new kid in a small, suburban farming community. She and her parents move in next door to Jesse Aarons and his family, who live near a forest on the outskirts of town. Jesse (Josh Hutcherson) has two older sisters who bicker and watch TV incessantly and two younger sisters. He shares a room with kid sister Maybelle, who adores him. Jesse’s main sources of content reside in his goal of being the fastest runner in the fifth grade and also in pouring his imagination out onto a drawing pad. In the midst of doing all the chores around the house on the command of his weary mother, taking a load of crap from his older sisters, getting up early to go running and being neglected and somewhat disrespected by his gruff father, Jesse settles down whenever he can with his pencil and paper and draws all sorts of elaborate creatures and scenes. Despite his talent and hard work, Jesse is sort of a loner.When the first day of school rolls around, the boys all line up at recess for their foot race to determine who will reign fastest king for the year, and Leslie throws herself into the mix. Naturally, all the boys object and tell Leslie to go play with the girls. Jesse is the only one to defend her.She takes her place on the starting line. Then they all heave off and as Jesse pulls ahead of the stampede he looks over and sees Leslie matching his stride. Then she steps ahead of him for the win. Although Jesse is, of all people involved, probably the most demoralized by this, it serves as the beginning of a deep, close friendship.Both Jesse and Leslie are social misfits to some degree, and their like-mindedness leads them to the woods near their houses. There they create an imaginary land called Terabithia, full of mythical creatures and adventures. It is to this place they disappear after school, distancing themselves from their realities of bully targets and family troubles to conquer beasts and rule the land.Although it may sound similar, don’t mistake this for a fantasy flick along the lines of “Harry Potter” or “Chronicles of Narnia.” We do see a few mystical trolls and furry dragons, but there’s never any pretense of Terabithia being anything other than a place that exists only in Jesse and Leslie’s imaginations. Both child actors, Hutcherson in particular, do a fantastic job of instilling real feeling into their parts. Actress Zooey Deschanel, who plays the fun, likeable music teacher Ms. Edmonds, on whom Jesse has a crush, is also very convincing.”Bridge to Terabithia” is a great story of friendship and resilience. Definitely a good one for kids and adults alike. Csupo could do with leaving the soundtrack out altogether and toning down the adult melodrama, but considering this film comes from a guy accustom to directing “Rugrats” productions, it could be much worse. Luckily for him, the story and main cast are good enough to carry it.