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Bridge to Terabithia a Pan's Labyrinth for Kids

Published February 15, 2007 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Disney.
Bridge to Terabithia Bridge to Terabithia
Bridge to Terabithia is Pan's Labyrinth for kids. I know the book's been around forever but I wonder if Guillermo Del Toro ever read a Spanish translation. If anything, it shows that such a story can be just as powerful without the gore and war.

Bridge to Terabithia Review

Jesse Aaron (Josh Hutcherson) and Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) seem like the only kids in their school with a brain. They tend to avoid all the junior high B.S. and hang out in their fantasy world across the creek. They imagine Terabithia, a magical world like all those other fantasies that are all the rage right now, and their real life problems inform their imaginary adventures.

See, Pan's Labyrinth. The power of fantasy over harsh reality. Dad (Robert Patrick) telling Jesse to stop fooling around with art and get real, bullies who can't even be faced because of gender issues and family fights can all be dealt with through the healthy outlet of Terabithia. It's not the Spanish Civil War, but it's perhaps more relatable because it's not so extreme. We all have parents and bullies. We don't all have abusive dictators.

The fantasy world only appears in glimpses of visual effects. It's mostly the pure imagination of the kids playing their games. It's almost as if seeing less created a greater overall effect. Hey, I think I'm onto something there. Someone should turn that into a slogan.

The level of reality in Bridge is exceptional too. The fact that Jesse acknowledges he can't even fight a girl bully because the mere gesture would get him expelled shows an understanding of human politics. They don't let the idiot kids' unclever remarks get them down. It's just something that goes on and they have better things to deal with.

The kids are great. Leslie is such a cool, engaging chick, Jesse doesn't even know how lucky he is. Dude, enjoy it while it lasts. When you get older, they only talk to doctors or Wall Street tycoons. Hutcherson gives a full bodied performance. Jesse deals with things only slightly more maturely than your average kid so it's not obnoxiously Hollywood. It's just human.

It also respects their intelligence to understand what they see. Not everything is completely spelled out. Many connections are made in simple cuts. For example, a bully rudely pushes Jesse aside. Cut to the bully with a bloody nose. We know who's come around to Jesse's aid. We don't need to see them talk about the change of heart.

The only issue the film really doesn't address is the economic one. Maybe Jesse's poor family of farmers shouldn't have had five kids. Then the money wouldn't be so tight. But I'm still petitioning against Cheaper by the Dozen so I'll have to give this one a pass.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Disney.

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