Boy, oh boy. The trailer for BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA made the film look like it would be a dismal, sentimental retread of CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE, with a couple of young teens discovering a magical kingdom where they become heroes. In fact, the prospect was so dreary I could barely force myself to go see the film.
Yet, to my surprise it turned out to be quite wonderful. The fantasy elements are actually rather minimal, and most of the film is about a young boy and a girl who imagine a wonderful land called Terabithia as a way of escaping from the problems of real life – sort of like a kinder, gentler version of PAN’S LABYRINTH.
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA turns out to be a very moving coming-of-age story that avoids the usual Hollywood sentiment and silliness in favor of telling a story with some real heart – and real guts – to it.. It’s not all syrupy treacle either; though not as grim as PAN’S LABYRINTH, the film does have some real bite to it, and I suspect that older viewers will enjoy it as least as much as children.