Most kids growing up imagine a world they can escape to, a magical place where they are in control of the things that happen. Director Gabor Csupo's Bridge to Terabithia, co-written by David Paterson (the son of the writer whose novel provides the film's source material), is the story of two kids and the bond they create while imagining a magical place to call their own.
Jesse (Josh Huterson) is a quiet and thoughtful outsider in a school that seems full of bullies. Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) is a confident and rather odd newcomer to the small-town school. While at first it might not seem that these two could be friends, they soon discover what they have in common and become inseparable. Leslie opens Jesse’s eyes to a world that he couldn’t see clearly, and she helps him to open his mind to his surroundings. Together the two create Terabithia and fight the wicked servants of the Dark Master, who is a clawed, shadowy figure.
The emphasis of the movie is on the friendship being built by these two unpopular children. While both come from different backgrounds, and their home lives are completely different, there is one common theme — loneliness. Jesse always seems to be the odd one out at home. His sisters receive most of the attention, especially the second youngest, May Belle (Bailee Madison), and Leslie seems to have all this free time while her parents, who are novelists, write.
The story that unfolds is simple but well-done. Having never read the book, I cannot make comparisons, although now I’m sure to add it to my reading list. Jesse and Leslie give each other things the other was looking for — friendship, understanding, hope — all things a person of any age can relate to on some level.
I was braced for the tragic incident that happens halfway through the movie but still I cried. (If you have seen the movie or read the book you know what happens.) Yes, that’s right. I cried and clutched my tissue like the soft-hearted fool I am. The incident was handled very well though, well-acted and thoughtful. It dealt with guilt and sorrow on a level that was easy for a younger audience to understand. I was surprised by the discussion involving religion. It seems in such a politically correct world something like that would be a big hot button. But again, it was handled thoughtfully.