KARNATAKA

A likeable children's film

Bridge To Terabithia

(English)

Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Anna Sophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Gabor Csupo

At first glance, Bridge To Terabithia can seem slightly disappointing, particularly to the viewer who goes into the theatre expecting to see the kind of wall-to-wall CGI-generated fantasy sequences that the trailers promise.

Instead, the film that is based on a book of the same name by Katherine Paterson chooses to ground itself strongly in reality, albeit a rural American reality that can seem very remote to the average Indian viewer.

Despite that cultural distance, however, Bridge To Terabithia is a fairly strong affair that handles with deftness situations that could easily have turned cheesy and contrived. Everyday realities of teen lives such as bullying, class differences made noticeable by appearance and attire and the emphasis away from artistic pursuits towards "real" work are handled by director Gabor Csupo (of Rugrats and The Wild Thornberry's fame) with remarkable sensitivity and an intimacy that suggest Csupo himself is well-acquainted with the feeling of being an outsider.

Rendering his vision with fairly admirable competence is a strong but under the radar cast. Particularly powerful is AnnaSophia Robb (previously from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) whose character Leslie Burke, the unlikely soul mate to Josh Hutcherson's Jesse Aarons and primary inventor of the fictional world of Terabithia, has a wonderful ability to stay with the viewer long after the movie is done. And when the screenplay by Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson (the author's son) raises the big questions, it proves itself rather able to handle them, never giving out the easy answers and sticking as hard as possible to the realities of a child's world, although some of that effect is marred by the chocolaty-ending that attempts to make the heavier, sadder portions before it digestible.

And that is the film's greatest failure, it's inability to recognise that children can handle the harder realities of life, and so anesthetises what could easily have been a more powerful work.

As it stands, Bridge To Terabithia is a fairly good watch for children of most ages, but fails to become a great work because it is too afraid to talk to the children at their own level.