I watched Bridge to Terabithia with great excitement. It came highly recommended from my good friend and fellow critic, Heather. But even in her praise for the movie, I was not ready for what I saw. I watched in stunned silence as the film ended. As I wiped away tears from my eyes, I thought about my own childhood. There’s something magical about an elementary school that’s hard to explain. However, the friendships you make, while they may not last, are almost sure to have an impact on your life for years to come.
The story revolves around a young boy named Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) and his little sister May Belle (Bailee Madson). The movie begins as we see Jess getting ready for a big race at school. Unfortunately, his mom threw his lucky sneakers out with the trash and since he comes from a poor family he’s is forced to wear his older sisters pink tennis shoes instead. Mortified at the thought, he quickly grabs a black marker and colors them in.
Later that day, as the race is set to begin the new girl in class Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) decides to run as well (much to the chagrin of the others, who thought this was a “boy’s only” race). The contest is a close one between Leslie and Jess with Leslie taking the lead and beating him at the last minute. May Belle runs over to her big brother Jess, but he is sour because he was beaten by Leslie who offers to shake hands after the race. He’s embarrassed and walks away from her. His bitterness fades away and eventually, the two of them develop a close friendship help by the fact that Leslie moved into the empty house next door to Jess.
While playing in the woods one day, the two of them create a magical world called Terabithia. Filled with magic and wonder, their world is full of prisoners being held captive by the evil, Dark Master. Jess and Leslie, with the help of dragonfly warriors, have come to set them free. As their imagination sores, so do the adventures they have in Terabithia.
In a film full of remarkable moments and scenes, I have to say I was impressed at a very potent conversation Leslie, Jess and May Belle have on their way home from church one Sunday about God and the Bible. Leslie tells them she doesn’t believe God would ever damn anyone to hell because he’s to busy making “all of this” as she points to the picturesque countryside around her.
The Bridge to Terabithia is an extraordinary movie that should be remembered as one of the best coming of age movies ever created. The amazing thing to me is how the movie so carefully focuses on the different kinds of friendships and how important those can be. You see the frustration and anger Jess can feel have towards his little sister May Belle, but at the same time how much he loves and cares about her. And then the relationship between Jess and Leslie is incredible because you feel the connection these two have towards each other is so genuine and beautiful words fail to aptly describe it.
Another thing that sets the movie apart from the rest is the music. Throughout the film, the director so wisely uses the music to set the tone and feel of the movie. Every film tries to do this, and it rarely works as wonderful as it does in Bridge to Terabithia.
One of the best movies ever made, this should be required viewing or all students in junior high or high school. Based on the award-winning novel by Katherine Paterson, the Bridge to Terabithia is a movie for all ages who cherish friendship. Turn on your imagination and be sure to keep your mind wide open, this movie gets Four out of four stars.