By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers) –
After the making of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), the Disney studio briefly teamed up with Walden Media to adapt classic juvenile fiction into full-length family features. Even though not all of the C.S. Lewis’s beloved Narnia series made it to the silver screen, Disney still did its best to produce family entertainment. One of those attempts led to a very unique Disney film version of one of the most beloved novels ever written for children–Bridge to Terabithia (2007). Based on the acclaimed and famous Newbery Medal-winning novel by Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia presents an original and compelling story that blends childhood fantasy with the bleakness of reality to create a modern Disney film for the twenty-first century.
Even with some minor differences between the original novel and this film adaptation, this film still honors the classic themes and enduring legacy of Paterson’s novel. Katherine Paterson herself wrote that novel in response to her son, David, losing his friend, who was struck by lightning. In spite of that horrific incident, both the novel and this film present the beauty of friendship between young children. That is especially true partially because David Paterson contributed to the screenplay. This film also features phenomenal performances from some of the hottest young actors working today (both in 2007 and as of 2018), which includes Josh Hutcherson (prior to his teen heartthrob status as “Peeta” in The Hunger Games series) Anna Sophia Robb, and Zooey Deschanel (the star of New Girl)! Such talent contributes to the fact that Disney is a studio that really knows how to produce family entertainment.
Even though this might have been intended as a “family film,” it lacks the charm of other family films just because this particular film is very dark. The novel itself presents the world of Terabithia in written form, but that fantastical quality is surprisingly absent in this film. In fact, most of this film feels like the bleakness associated with being a preteen in middle school. There actually are A LOT of scenes that take place in school settings, which seems odd especially since Disney is known for some of the most fantastic scenes in family entertainment. This film might have been intended to be a modern family flick, but sometimes it would be nice if a film adaptation of a famous children’s novel maintains the innocence of childhood that is oftentimes related to such timeless works of fiction.
Warning: There are some very depressing scenes in this film that might not be suitable for VERY young children!
Bridge to Terabithia might not be one of the best (nor critically acclaimed) Disney films in modern times, but it still does its best to introduce film audiences to one of the greatest novels ever written for children. Some people might consider themselves to be “too old” for family entertainment, but this film can still teach viewers powerful life lessons about friendship, the loss of innocence, and the power of imagination. No one is a kid forever, but some adults still enjoy family films just because those movies can make them feel nostalgic about their own personal childhoods. And who knows, maybe some parents can show this film to their kids so that they could enjoy a Disney film together as a family.
Bridge to Terabithia (2007) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every intense scene in the school that Jess and Leslie attend
Take a Drink: every time the characters talk about television (which is actually a major symbol in the original novel)
Drink a Shot: every time something fantastical happens on screen (even though there is a relatively scarce amount of fantasy in this film… in contrast to other films like Harry Potter)