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Parents Television Council Reviews

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Bridge to Terabithia

By J. Byron Dean

 

Release Date: February 16, 2007

MPAA RATING: PG (Thematic elements including bullying, some peril & mild language)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel

Genre: Family/Fantasy based on the book by Katherine Paterson

Recommended Age: 10+

 

In keeping with its superb tradition of adapting high-quality children's books into beautiful motion pictures, Walden Media again deserves accolades for its latest family film, Bridge to Terabithia.

 

Note to parents: There is a death in the film.  Although it is not shown on screen, there is a description of what happened.  It's handled very delicately but sensitive children may be upset by it.

 

Violence:   Mostly limited to verbal bullying except for one instance of implied bullying.  When the 8th grade girl bully takes up for Jess, we see one of the boy bullies come to the school bus with a bloody nose.   Jess pushes his little sister down backwards on the dirt road when she insists on going with him and Leslie to their secret place.  After several attempts to discourage her, he finally loses his temper.  There is also fantasy violence when the children battle some of the Terabithian villains but there is no blood in these moments.  At one point Jess falls from the top of the tree house tree but is caught by the friendly ogre.

 

Sex

None

Violence

Bullying, bloody nose from implied bullying, sibling roughness, death implied

Language

Damn, Hell

 

A fine family movie, Bridge to Terabithia stars to young actors that excel in their roles as well as a strong supporting cast.  The film incorporates beautiful touches of the Terabithian fantasy world created by the children but this is not the main crux of the story's message.  (Commercials shown to promote this film are misleading as they more than imply that the majority of the film is fantasy which is not the case.)

 

AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie) is Leslie Burke, an only child that moves into town with her financially comfortable fiction-writing parents.  New to school, she is immediately singled out by the 8th grade bully, a girl that even charges a dollar from anyone who needs to use the school's bathroom, but stands firm and seems to be able to handle what the bully dishes out.

 

Josh Hutcherson (Kicking and Screaming) plays Jess Aarons, a local boy that has his own band of bullies that torment him daily about the fact that he doesn't have money to buy even the smallest necessities like new tennis shoes for a school race he's entered.   He runs each morning before breakfast to get in shape for the race in hopes that winning will move him up a rung on the ladder of life.

 

Jess' poor background finds him struggling between his own needs and the pressures of those of his parents, who find that they are so short of funds that they don't know if there will be enough for food for them and their four children.  A creative and sensitive young boy, his artistic talent at drawing fantasy creatures and his love for animals is apparent from the start. 

 

When the race day arrives, Jess is certain he will win but his dreams are dashed when Leslie joins the line at the last second and beats him by a leg.  However bumpy their first encounter was, when the bus drops Leslie off at the beginning of the road to Jess' house, talk opens up and soon they are running down the road in a mock replay of the day's race.  From this bonding point on, the two develop a strong friendship when they begin to learn they have more in common than bullies at school, and that together they can escape into a beautiful fantasy world that is all theirs in the woods beyond Jess' home.  Named Terabithia by Leslie, an old abandoned tree house becomes a castle, while squirrels and crows become the enemy that has the Terabithians held captive.  The two children turn their magical kingdom into a place where they can escape their daily troubles and seek solace in the world of fantasy, adventure and friendship.  When all else seems too bleak and dismal, the two friends find a way, through the fantasy world they've created, to lift up each other's spirits and create memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Another child in the film has dark issues as well, though different from Jess'.  The 8th grade girl bully reveals to a caring and concerned Leslie that her father hits her.  While the conversation is not shown between the two girls, Leslie recounts to Jess what she was told.  But this one act of kindness by a stranger who has been mistreated helps to encourage the bully to stop her hurtful ways and not take out her pains on the other children.


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