Saturday, 14 July 2007

review: bridge to terabithia (gabor csupo, 2007)

Bridge to Terabithia
sets its claim in a territory that might seem old-hat for the family film, tackling as it does such themes as the power of the imagination and the relationship of fantasy to reality. Rather than more recent fantasy epics such as The Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter franchise, it bears comparison to films like Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986), where the source of the fantasy is firmly rooted in the child protagonist's everyday life and problems, and becomes a symbolic representation of their coming of age.

In its frequent use of atrocious pop songs and a saccharine orchestral score, in the heavy-handedness with which it repeatedly drives home its somewhat cliche "be yourself" message, and in done-to-death plot elements such as the inspirational schoolteacher (who is, admittedly, endearingly played by Zooey Deschanel), Bridge to Terabithia feels undeniably like the mediocre Disney message-laden family movie it sometimes threatens to descend into. And yet, other elements come as a surprise from a Disney family film: its feminist insistence on gender equality, its attack on religious fundamentalism, and, finally, its honest and unflinching treatment of death.

(some spoilers follow in white...highlight to read)

Leslie's death two-thirds into the film is completely unexpected and changes the tone of the film. Jessie's last, lingering glimpse of her suggests a budding sexual awakening, hinting at the possibility that their childhood friendship could eventually blossom into something more. His unfinished drawing of her, that we see after her death, again evokes his changing, incomplete image of her, and the cutting short of their relationship before it has been fully discovered. Death here is sudden, unexpected and without meaning - the survivors pick up the pieces and carry on as best they can.

(end spoilers)

There is a lot holding Bridge to Terabithia back from being as good as it could have been; apart from its frequent slips into cliche and sentimentality, there is little of the visual flair and imagination such a story demands. Its heart, however, is undeniably in the right place, and it certainly makes for a likeable little film; which already places it head and shoulders above the legions of family-oriented films produced every year.


Robert said...

However I do recommend the book. It is fabulous and was quite ahead of it's time. Gabor Csupo should stick to creating more rugrats and hey arnol epiosdes.

Lara said...

Or even better, more Aaahh! Real I was telling's one of the best animated series since some of my fave eighties classics and the mid-nineties stuff like Earthworm Jim...was happy to find some episodes of Trap Door available on youtube: