PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language.
Feb. 16, 2007
Action/Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Adaptation
AnnaSophia Robb, Josh Hutcherson, Zooey Deschanel, Lauren Clinton, Bailee Madison
BASED ON NOVEL BY:
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
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Bridge to Terabithia: A Film for Everyone
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
- Many adults may fondly recall the children’s novel, Bridge to Terabithia, by Newberry Award-winning author Katherine Paterson. Now they have the opportunity to fall in love with the characters all over again, as the magical land of Terabithia is brought to life on the big screen.
The story revolves around Jess Aarons (played by Josh Hutcherson, The Polar Express, Zathura, RV), a country boy from a poor family who doesn’t fit in with his classmates at school. His dream of becoming the fastest kid among his peers is dashed when a new girl moves to town and beats him in a school race.
At first glance, it would seem that the rich, city-girl Leslie Burke (played by AnnaSophia Robb, Because of Winn Dixie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has nothing in common with Jess. But the two become best friends and together they discover the magical kingdom of Terabithia, an imaginary land accessible only by a rope swing that crosses a stream in the woods. There they rule as Queen and King and encounter giants and ogres that mirror the real-life bullies they face at school.
Paterson originally wrote the novel for her son, David, and it was published in 1977. As her son got older, and embarked on a promising writing career himself, he decided to make the beloved novel into a film. He pitched the idea to studios for years with no success.
“I was trying to make this movie for 17 years,” David said, “and many of the studios would just look at me point blank and say, ‘There’s no money in adapting children’s books to film unless the author has been dead for a hundred years. There’s no money in family entertainment.’”
Paterson disagreed with the labels that studios tried to attach to the film. Though the movie is a family-friendly film centered around the lives of children, it is much more than a children’s movie, he said.
“It’s not a kid’s movie. It’s not an adult’s movie. It is for everyone,” David said.
In a culture where even family-friendly films are often laden with profanity, Paterson is a rare find among Hollywood producers. As a Christian working in the industry, and a father of two boys, the film producer said he is bothered by the amount of bad language in movies.
“A lot of writers think it’s cool for a swear word to come out of a kid's mouth, especially if they are younger,” David said.
But if the writing is good, he said, profanity is not necessary.
“I think if you’re dependent on curse words for your film, especially for family-based films, you might be in the wrong business,” he said.
Paterson finally found the perfect match for the project with a company that has a wealth of experience adapting children's books to film. Walden Media -- whose recent endeavors include Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Hoot, Because of Winn Dixie, and Holes – teamed up with Walt Disney Pictures to produce the movie.
Does the film capture the vision his mom originally had for the story?
“I think they’ve done a very good job of adapting it,” Katherine said.
Though she was initially concerned about changes that would need to be made to adapt the book to the screen, the author said the messages of friendship and the power of imagination that are central to the story were unchanged.
“I think that comes across beautifully,” she said.
Audiences may also glimpse traces of the author’s Christian faith in the story. Katherine worked as a missionary in Japan for four years before she met and married her husband, a Presbyterian pastor. Her writing career began when staff members at the church she attended asked her to write curriculum materials for their fifth- and sixth-graders.
Although she never set out to write expressly “Christian” stories when she began to write fiction, her faith is an integral part of who she is.
“You write from the deepest part of yourself and whoever you are comes through on the page,” she said.
Overall, Bridge to Terabithia is a story about friendship and the power of imagination.
“Sometimes that’s lacking in this world,” David said, “so I hope this film can help propel that.”
While Christians may embrace the film for its family-friendly values, the movie has a message that can appeal to an even broader audience.
“I hope it does get seen by a lot of people because I think there are some great messages in it,” David said. “Whether you want to interpret it as Christian or not, and you’re welcome to, I think there are messages of friendship, hope, family, and faith.”
Bridge to Terabithia opens in theaters today.
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More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com
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