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Laramie Movie Scope:
Bridge to Terabithia

The best Disney film in seven years

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 17, 2007 -- “Bridge to Terabithia” is a great new Disney family film about the power of imagination and the difficulty of dealing with death at an early age. This movie deals with real tragedy and doesn't shy away from it or gloss it over, so be ready for that. This could be the best Disney film since “Toy Story 2” in 1999. It's funny, romantic, magical, warm, and it is a real tear-jerker. Most films aimed at children shy away from tragedy, but not always. There have been some fine exceptions, including “Bambi,” “Old Yeller,” “My Girl,” “The Mighty,” and a few others.

In this film, Jesse Aarons (played by Josh Hutcherson of “Zathura”) is being hassled by the other kids in school because his family is poor. He trains hard to be the fastest kid in school, but is beaten by a new girl in school, Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), who also happens to be his next-door neighbor. The two become unlikely friends. This friendship blooms into something like puppy love. Both are outsiders at school and they use their active imaginations to create their own world, Terabithia, where they can get away from reality. To get there, they use a rope to swing across a creek and then take a path to a remote forest treehouse. Leslie has tremendous writing talent to go with her imagination, and Jesse is developing his artistic skills.

The final part of the movie is about tragic death and the way that children deal with it, starting with denial, anger, guilt and finally, an imaginative and constructive tribute. The healing process is helped along by the aid of some unlikely allies, a surprisingly empathetic teacher, a bully who becomes both friend and defender, a dog, an understanding parent. This is an unconventional film in many ways. It shows children dealing with their problems with ingenuity and imagination, rather than violence. It is a film of subtlety, nuance, sensitivity and layers of depth. It also demonstrates the level of imagination one would hope for in this type of film. In short, it is one of the best family films in years. It rates an A. Bring plenty of hankies.

Spoiler Alert

The screenplay for this movie was co-written by David Paterson, based on the Newbery award-winning book written by his mother, Katherine Paterson. The book, first published in 1977, is loosely based on an tragic incident in David's life that happened more than 30 years ago when he was just a young boy, much like Jesse in the movie. At that time, David's friend, Lisa Hill, was struck by lightning while playing on a beach and was killed. Patterson has been quoted as saying he waited a long time to make this movie, partly because he had to come to terms with the book, and partly because he wanted to get enough artistic control over the project so that the movie would be true to the book, particularly the last 20 minutes, which is based on the last 20 pages of the book. This book was originally adapted for a 1985 made-for-TV film aired on PBS in 1985. According to Wikipedia, A tree dedicated to Lisa Hill was planted near Takoma Park Elementary School. A creek, named Sligo Creek, runs through Takoma Park, Maryland, where David and Lisa used to live.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)