Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA - the best children's film I've seen in years

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA is an outstanding film whether you're a child or an adult. It immediately catapults into my list of Best Films of 2007 if not all time.

So much of what I hate about big summer blockbsters aimed at the "family market" is their complete lack of respect for the audience. Kids films are often patronising and formulaic. They tend to be over-populated with smart-talking animals and oh-so-smart pop-cultural references. They tend to be light on tight storylines, engaging characters and some similarity to real life.

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA bucks the trend. For a start it's based on a proper story by Katherine Paterson that has structure, character development and real emotional pull. It focuses on a young boy called Jesse who's having a hard time. He's being bullied at school, he feels his father holds him in contempt, and his parents have no money. His life is changed when the new girl in school, Leslie, befriends him. Thanks to her vivid imagination, they turn a deserted wood and an old tree-house into a fantasy world called Terabithia. The friendship helps both kids to gain in self-confidence. This self-confidence helps Jesse to cope when the darker aspects of real life.

Director Gabor Csupo deserves praise for filming the movie in muted tones and for showing the real strains of life on the bread-line. This is no sugar-coated un-real Hollywood movie. The director also deserves credit for using the beautifully-imagined CGI effects sparingly. At all times, the emphasis is on the fact that the kids are using their imaginations. To show too much of their fantasy on the screen with CGI would defeat the point. Indeed, the only time the director really lets rip is at the very end of the film when, arguably, the audience needs a positive feel-good visual to compensate for the emotional beating beforehand.

And the film does have a profound emotional impact. So much so that I would recommend parents of small or particularly sensitive childrent to watch it first to check whether it is suitable. However I have to say that at the right time in a child's life, seeing such a film, followed by a parental discussion about the subject matter, could be an important way of recognising that life is not all about fun and games.

The only thing that remains is for me to highlight the strong performances by all members of the cast, not least from Josh Hutcherson as Jesse, AnnaSophia Robb as Leslie, Bailee Madison as Jess' little sister and Lauren Clinton as the school bully. In the adult roles, Zooey Deschanel has a small role as a sympathetic teacher and Robert Patrick, aka the T-1000, gives a suitably steely performance as Jess' stressed out father.

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA is on release in Germany, India, the US, the Philippines, Hungary, Russia, Iceland, Germany, Poland, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey, Belgium, France, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Serbia, the UK, Singapore, Estonia and Latvia, It opens in Hong Kong next week, in Egypt, in Denmark and Norway on June 8th, in Australia on June 14th, in Bulgaria on June 22nd and in Finland on August 3rd. BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA is released on Region 1 DVD in June 2007.

No comments:

Post a Comment