| The Red Right Hand
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA
I saw the trailer for this film and complained, endlessly. I haven't read Katherine Paterson's novel but I knew the general outline, I knew this was a story about the relationship shared between a young boy and girl - similar to that of My Girl. When I saw the trailer I thought, "Well done, Disney, another poor adaptation of what could have been a great movie." Luckily it was only the marketing aspect of this film that was completely corrupted by Harry Potter / Narnia-mania, the film itself is actually a beautiful and original creation that deserves great success. Despite being told from the standpoint of children, this movie has been extremely well executed and proves to be a mature telling of scenarios that we are all familiar with (either through personal experience or witnessed in school): neglectful parents, bullies, sibling friction and the every day toll of school and homework. Jesse Aarons [Hutcherson] is an artistically talented loner in his rural hometown. His Father (Patrick, reprising his Walk The Line roll) is highly strung and sees no value in his son's creations. Amidst the stress of school and home life, Jesse's life is changed when he meets the new girl next-door, Leslie [Robb]. Leslie is a free-spirited young girl, with a vast and reeling imagination. Forming a friendship based on their social isolation, Jesse and Leslie become very close. Combining her gift for words and his visual talent, the couple escape into a realm of make-believe, dubbed Terabithia, using a rope that swings across a large stream. The film's finale is not only heart-wrenching and touching but also incredibly earnest and far from the regular Disney formula that forces you to feel something.
The two leads, previously seen in Zathura and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory are both incredibly talented and work wonderfully together. Hutcherson's ability to play subtlety and frustration is enjoyable, as is Robb's creativity and energy but when together, they are given the chance to really bounce off on another and create a truly endearing pair. The key message of this film (as in the novel) is to encourage children's imaginations and not to let them get completely sucked into a world of electronics and adult-mentalities. I know that may sound odd, the best thing I could off as a comparison would be the clear talents of AnnaSophia Robb next to the dry deliveries of Dakota Fanning. I believe that one of the only reasons Fanning is so popular is due to her ability to act older than she is. Robb, on the other hand, acts her age and shows extreme potential; having said that, so did Lindsay Lohan, nine years ago. The roles of the adults are fairly thin but it's only when compared to the main characters. Zooey Deschanel slings her general cynicism to portray the impressionable music teacher, Ms. Edmonds, whom Jesse has a crush on. Patrick's performance is viewable and serves the story but, as I said, simply feels like a re-hash of Ray Cash. Similarly, the other students offer little to distract us from our young couple but they were never designed to, other than to serve an interesting moral point about bullying.
The only downside I could see would be the overall cheesiness and the DIY montages that portray the happiest of times and the back-and-forth religious mindset. It is a Christian movie, it's not a Christian movie, it is a Christian movie, it's not a Christian movie. Then again, this is America we're talking about; you make a solid pro-Christian movie, hint at it or ignore it completely. The CGI is not over-the-top but helps to bring the land born of these two kids' minds to life - be warned 90% of the CG effects are shown in the trailers. It's pleasant enough but never distracts you from the true heart of the plot. I have always maintained that computer generated graphics should serve the plot as opposed to the other way round (300 doesn't count) and Bridge To Terabithia is a prime example, resorting to CGI as a last minute nod. The ending isn't exactly sad and sullen, more hopeful and optimistic, despite the themes at work. If, however, you are more interested in the darker elements of secret dream worlds of the young and free, might I suggest Heavenly Creatures or Pan's Labyrinth but if you're in the mood for a family film (more deserving of that genre than most of the releases that claim to be) that supports moral values and clear messages of friendship through social adversity, without being ridiculously corny, try this delightful tale.
4th May 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
I don't want to give away too much but the way in which Jesse deals with grief and loss is extremely well written and (as odd as it sounds to say) rather enjoyable to watch.
Even though Hutcherson's performance is extremely good, it's Robb's spry nature that grabs audience attention. Her innocence and good hearted nature are things to be admired and are clearly missing from modern children's stories.
"Well, I don't think so. I seriously do not think God goes around damning people to Hell; he's too busy running all this"
In A Few Words:
"A touching tale, the likes of which modern cinema is not only missing but in desperate need of. Think My Girl more than Narnia"