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What happens when you get an animator to direct a live-action film that’s NOT based on any of his animated works? Well, this movie is a good way to find out that answer.
Gábor Csupó, famous for producing/animating famous shows such as “Rugrats” and “Duckman”, tries the helm of live-action directing in this adaptation of the novel, “Bridge to Terabithia”. How does he fare? Let’s find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the movie begins, we are introduced to the main character, Jesse, played by pre-“Hunger Games”, Josh Hutcherson.
He lives with his financially struggling family in a small house in the country and like all kids, attends school. At school, he’s frequently picked on by bullies and seems to not have any friends besides his little sister, May Belle, played by Bailee Madison.
One day, a new girl comes to school named Leslie, played by AnnaSophia Robb. At first, Jesse doesn’t get along with her, especially after she beats him in a school race.
And to top it all off, it turns out that Leslie’s family has just moved in to the house next to Jesse’s family, hence they’ll be seeing a lot of each other. One day, they decide to play in the woods near their house and we see Leslie’s imagination run wild as she imagines that this wooded area is a magical, invisible kingdom that both she and Jesse rule together. And of course, Jesse is wondering what the heck is wrong with this girl?!
And what name does Leslie give to this imaginary escape? Terabithia! She doesn’t even hesitate to name it that, it just comes nigh immediately!
But as they visit the area more and more, Jesse’s imagination starts to run wild and he joins Leslie in creating this fictional world. Jesse, who was always a great doodler, fills the world with all the creative creatures that he’s drawn over the past years, and Leslie and Jesse become best friends through this bonding.
They give each other gifts (Leslie buys Jesse new drawing supplies and Jesse buys Leslie a pet dog), meet each other’s respective families, and use their newfound world to help them deal with their everyday lives. For example, Leslie and Jesse use their bravery from “battling evil Terabithian ogres” to stand up to and befriend one of the bullies.
One day, their music teacher, Ms. Edmunds, played by Zooey Deschanel, calls up Jesse on a Saturday and invites him to come along with her to a local museum that she was planning to take her nephews to, but they canceled. And since she’s all dressed up, she figures why not call one of her students to come along with her. And having a huge crush on her, Jesse readily agrees.
As they drive away from his house, he takes a second to look at Leslie’s house, thinking whether or not they should’ve invited her. But as all boys do when they’re with their crushes, they prefer to be alone, so he doesn’t mention this to Ms. Edmunds and the two go off to the local museum and have a great time. When he returns home, he finds his family crying and wonders what happened. Apparently, Leslie has died!
You see, to get into the wooded area of Terabithia, you have to swing on a rope over a river. It seems that Leslie decided to go there when Jesse was out with Ms. Edmunds, and the rope frayed causing her to fall into the river and drown.
At first, Jesse doesn’t react much to the death of Leslie. As he goes through the upcoming days paying a visit to Leslie’s family and going back to school, he goes through the stages of grief including denial, anger, and bargaining.
Finally, he decides to cross over into Terabithia to look for Leslie (who he’s convinced isn’t dead), when he feels that an “ogre” or something is chasing him. As the “ogre” catches up with him, he finds that it’s just his father, played by Robert Patrick. That’s when Jesse breaks down and the truth of Leslie’s death hits finally. He sobs his eyes out while being hugged and consoled by his father in a quite touching scene.
And he learns the final stage of grief: acceptance, and learns to accept life without Leslie. He decides to build a wooden “bridge” to make the journey to Terabithia safer and invites his sister to rule with him over the mythical land.
Ok, to answer our previous question, Gábor Csupó should stick to animation!
I mean, he really tries his hardest, the movie tries its hardest, but it fails. The amount of time spent in the magical world of Terabithia isn’t more than a few minutes of the movie, at most. And the stuff that happens to them in Terabithia isn’t EXTREMELY essential to the plot or to their development as characters. (Yes I know, they become a bit braver, but it’s still not enough to be deemed a result of their experiences in Terabithia).
I also cannot commend ANY of the actors. Don’t get me wrong, many of them do try! But their attempts just aren’t good enough to make me commend them. And then there are some like Zooey Deschanel who doesn’t seem to give a darn and is just doing this film for a paycheck.
I can’t say there’s NOTHING good about this movie. The movie can get emotional at times, especially at the end during Leslie’s death, but it’s not enough to make me call this a good movie.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 14/35 = 40% (F) !
The next review will be posted on March 31st.