Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia Review

Possible slight spoiler alert.

Yesterday after school I took my 7-year-old son, Ben, to see Bridge to Terabithia. The only thing I knew about it was from the trailers, which made it look like a Narnia-type "children enter a magical world with magic and magical things happen while imporant life lessons are learned" movie.

It felt like it was building up to that, too. And once the magical things started happening, it was pretty clear to me, an adult, that magical things weren't happening. To Ben, it was magic. So when something tragic happened, he turned to me and said, "I'm sure [that tragic thing didn't happen]."

At the end of the film, when the tragic thing wasn't magically undone, he quietly turned his head into my shoulder and cried. I'd already been crying a bit, and that made it even worse. I was proud. Sometimes it seems like he's such a little jerk who enjoys torturing his brother, killing little bugs and pretending to kill bigger things (yeah, I know, he's a 7-year-old boy), so it was heartening to see he had that moment when he understands what it means to feel real empathy, even if that empathy is for a fictional character. Paul Atreides is no more human than my boy.

It also reminded me of when I was about his age. My mom took me to see The Mouse and His Child. There was a bad guy rat that, in the end, had his two front teeth knocked out. It somehow "e-mouse-culated" him to lose those two great tusks and he was saddened and humbled. For some reason, which I still can't really fathom, that made me cry. I cried out of the theater, into the car, at home and in my bed. I cried myself to sleep that night.

Bridge to Terabithia was very well made in all those important ways: music, cinematography, directing, acting. The characters, lessons, circumstances and foreshadowing seemed pretty obvious to an adult, and it could have been just another one of those feel good adventure-lesson films which deal lightly and quickly with tragedy or reverse it somehow with magic; where the bad kids get theirs, learn to respect that kid they've been picking on; the triumph of the nerds, "revenge best served cold" -- all that.

But it treated its subject and characters very realistically and respectfully. There were the stereotypes, a bit of that cold revenge and nerd triumphalism. But it cost more than mere public humiliation, thus making what little triumph there was hollow and meaningless when compared with the really important things in life.

It's easy to gloss over serious subjects in an animated or otherwise patently fictional movie when your suspension of disbelief is already in high gear. Bridge to Terabithia confused and blended magic and reality in such a way that the suspension of disbelief was jarred. And that made it more real.

I don't usually go see movies that make me cry in public. I'm still scarred by my Schindler's List experience, which was nothing like Jerry Seinfeld's (and Bridge to Terabithia is nothing like Schindler's List). But I'm very glad the trailers tricked me into seeing this one.


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