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Bridge to Terabithia - Movie Review for Parents

Bring enough tissues for everyone in the family!

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Bridge to Terabithia

Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb in "Bridge to Terabithia"

Photo © Buena Vista Pictures and Walden Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

MPAA Rating: PG, for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language
Genre: Drama/fantasy (Based on the novel by Katherine Paterson)
Age range: Ages 7 and up
Runtime: Approx. 96 minutes
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Walden Media
Release Date: February 16, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia - Guide Review

Middle school is a difficult phase of life for any child, and Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is no different. In addition to struggling to fit in at school, Jess is struggling to fit in at home to. Between the bullies at school and his parents' financial woes at home, the only thing Jess has to look forward to is the big race on the playground.

When the day of the "boys only" race finally arrives, though, he is beaten by a girl - the new girl at school, Leslie Burke (Annasophia Robb). Despite his resulting resentment, Leslie and Jess soon become friends.

Leslie loves to make up fantastical stories, and Jess is a budding artist. The two use their talents to create a magical kingdom all their own, and an old rope over a stream in the woods becomes the entrance to Terabithia. In Terabithia, Jess and Leslie escape from the troubles of life to a place where they, as rulers, can conquer anything.

Finding himself suddenly faced with a horrible tragedy, Jess uses what he learned from Leslie to overcome his grief. Imagination has power, not only to provide an escape, but also to provide an outlet for creative problem-solving.

Despite what the movie trailers may lead people to believe, Bridge to Terabithia is not a light-hearted adventure. In fact, those not familiar with the book will be in for quite a shock. Just be forewarned, bring plenty of tissues.

Bridge to Terabithia

Characters from "Bridge to Terabithia"

Photo © Buena Vista Pictures and Walden Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The value of this movie does not lie in the fantasy world come to life via computer graphics. Bridge to Terabithia is a coming-of-age story which is not about fantasy, but about hard reality and the touchingly creative ways in which children deal with life. The story is told on a level that allows kids to gain something of value for hearing it, and it gives adults plenty to think about as well.

Bridge to Terabithia - Note to Parents

More than any movie I have reviewed in the past, Bridge to Terabithia has the potential to blindside parents. Not that the movie isn't wonderful, but it does contain sad, heavy scenes which address very mature topics. Had I not read the book review before seeing the movie, I probably would have taken my 4-year-old daughter to see it, and I definitely think the tragic elements of the story would have been too much for her.

Parents should be aware that the movie addresses such topics as school bullying, financial distress, abuse (only briefly described, not shown), and death (the death is heavily described but not shown). The movie also contains several uses of the words damn or damned and hell.

Bridge to Terabithia - Content Overview

The following lists some of the most prominent examples of possibly offensive content in the movie (Contains Spoilers):

Violence (Mild)
- Several instances occur at school wherein bullies knock other kids down, bump into them or threaten them.

- In Terabithia, some menacing magical creatures are shown. Leslie and Jess are shown in perilous situations, but they are never hurt, as the situations are just imagined.
- Some kids discuss that fact that a schoolmate's father hits her.
- Jess punches another kids when he makes a rude comment about Leslie.
- One school bully gives another a bloody nose. The fight is not shown, but the bloody nose is.

Sex/Nudity (None)

Profanity (Mild)
- Several uses of the words "damn" and "hell."

Alcohol/Drugs (None)

Bad/Disrespectful Behavior (Moderate)
- Most of the undesirable behavior in this film comes from school bullies. In one scene, a bully steals a sandwich from one kid only to open it and throw it at another. Also, the bullies make fun of other kids and call them names such as "loser."
- Jess' sisters are often shown bickering and making fun of him.
- Jess and Leslie get back at a school bully by faking a love note to her and then laughing as the supposed admirer laughs at her.

Scary Scenes (Moderate)
- The scenes listed under "Violence" may be scary or unsettling to children.
- The imagined Dark Master, enemy of Terabithia, is sometimes shown as a frightening dark shadowy creature who briefly appears in the woods at times.
- At one point, Jess runs from the Dark Master as if it will get him, and he is surprised by his dad.
- Some scary creatures are shown such as giant tree monsters, giant trolls, hairy vultures and others. The interactions with these creatures are fairly brief.

Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Heavy)
- Jess is obviously depressed over getting bullied at school, having to wear his sister's hand-me-down shoes, and seeing his parents argue over money.
- Jess notices that his dad treats his sisters differently than him. He tries to win his dad's approval, and he is often upset by his dad's treatment of him.
- Jess and Leslie learn that a school bully is crying because all of her friends found out about her dad hitting her.
- Jess comes home one day to find his distraught family waiting for him. He learns that his best friend is dead. Scenes following this event are emotional and tense as Jess and his friend's family deal with their loss.

Bridge to Terabithia - Topics to Talk About

  • Due to a discussion the kids have in the movie about God and the bible, children may have questions about religion, the bible, Jesus, God and hell.
  • Children may have also have concerns about death and where people go when they die.
  • Other heavy topics in the movie include financial stress, abuse, sibling rivalry and school bullying.
  • Kids who enjoy the movie may also enjoy reading the novel Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. The Bridge to Terabithia DVD contains a bonus feature which highlights the themes in the book, which creates an excellent opportunity for kids to learn about literature and practice their compare/contrast skills.
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