A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie based on Katherine Paterson's classic children's novel isn't a fantasy adventure as much as it is a thoughtful drama. The story includes mature themes about loneliness, platonic love, parental affection, family relationships, religious/class differences, and even death. For example, a financially troubled father is emotionally distant from his son, while the mother seems too overwhelmed with five kids to connect to any of them. At school, kids are ridiculed because of their appearance, and a bully and her associates routinely terrorize younger kids. Potential spoiler alert: Due to a central character's death, sensitive children (or those who've experienced the loss of a loved one) may need to be comforted after the film.
What's the story?
Based on Katherine Paterson's Newbery Medal-winning 1977 book, this touching adaptation is the ultimate story of boy-girl friendship. Forget the zeitgeist of iPod-carrying, text-messaging, gadget-obsessed tweens, and meet two 10-year-olds who prefer to use their imaginations. Despite their different upbringings, Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) -- a poor mechanic/small-time farmer's son -- and his neighbor Leslie Burke (a glowing AnnaSophia Robb) -- the only daughter of intellectual back-to-the-landers -- form a fast friendship. When Leslie decides that they need a special place to call their own, the two construct a magical land in the woods behind their houses, a secret kingdom dubbed "Terabithia" that's populated by wonders only they can see. And though Jess and Leslie's friendship continues to grow, as in the book, it doesn't devolve into pre-adolescent dating. It's as true a friendship as fiction offers. When tragedy strikes, quickly and unexpectedly, the fragility of Terabithia is exposed. Yet somehow, the magic continues.
Is it any good?
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA is not only one of the best family films of 2007, it's one of the finest film adaptations of children's literature. Like Narnia, only the initiated can see Terabithia's wonder, and the two young leads ably lead the audience into their secret kingdom, which is full of buzzing fairies and flying, rodent-like evildoers. As their imaginary world develops, each contributes their talents to the task: Leslie builds, and Jess draws.
Outside of Terabithia, the best friends share glimpses into the other's life: Leslie goes to church for the first time, and Jess hangs out with her laid-back parents. At school they delight in the weekly visit of breezy music teacher Ms. Edmonds (Zooey Deschanel, looking exactly like the beautiful teacher every student loves).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what made Jess and Leslie such good friends. What did they teach each other? Were they boyfriend and girlfriend or something different? Why is that rare?
Why was it so important for Jess and Leslie to have a "place just for us"? Kids: Do you have your own special place, or your own Jess or Leslie?
If you've read the novel, how is the movie different? Parents should encourage kids who haven't read it yet to get a copy. And if you're willing, read along -- it's a wonderful book. For more ideas, see our discussion guide.
- In theaters: February 15, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: June 19, 2007
- Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Josh Hutcherson, Zooey Deschanel
- Director: Gabor Csupo
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.