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Bridge to Terabithia (DVD)

Starring: Terminator 2, the older brother from Zathura, Trillian and the inflating gum-chewer from Charlie and the Cholocate Factory.

Rated: PG.

Story: Jesse (Josh Hutcherson) is in the fifth-grade. He feels under-appreciated at home, gets bullied at school and has a crush on his music teacher (Zooey Deschanel). Life isn't great. Then he meets new girl Leslie (Anna Sophia Robb). She's cute but crazy as an umbrella made of cheese. They create an imaginary, fantasy kingdom in the middle of the woods. Their experiences there help them deal with and overcome their everyday problems.

Comments: If all you know about Bridge to Terabithia is what you saw in the adverts, then this isn't the film you're expecting. It's not the Golden Labyrinth of Narnia where a ten-year-old decides that life sucks but then discovers a magical world where they learn to value themselves and others. This is a movie where a ten-year-old decides that life sucks and then discovers that life really, really sucks but learns to get over it by imagining trolls.

On its own terms, it's an affecting tale of children struggling to cope with isolation, criticism and bereavement. It's difficult to view Bridge to Terabithia without a host of expectations brought about by countless other films and its own advertising campaign, however. These expectations make the few short sequences of CGI confusing. I'm pretty sure the animated sections are there just to show the audience what the kids are imagining and I don't think they're meant to imply that the magical kingdom is 'real' but I'm not certain because I'm so used to films with actual elves and pixies, talking lions and Quidditch. I kept having to suspend my suspension of disbelief. This was slightly painful. The problem was made worse by my children constantly asking what was going on and which bits were pretend. I simply didn't know the answers, which simply made them ask all the harder.

Then the last half an hour turned out to be incredibly sad and I had to deal with a whole load of other questions.

I spent much of the film wondering where it was going. Even the end left me bemused because it's hard to work out the message. I suspect the general idea is that we all need a safe place to hide away from the world and that it's good to pretend and imagine. Unfortunately, the beautiful CGI blurs the line between a tactical withdrawal into day-dream and a full-scale retreat into delusion.

My eldest is nearly eight and the film was a bit over his head. He's never much been into make-believe, which didn't help, but the movie is probably more suitable for older children. Bear in mind that they could find it emotionally traumatic, though, so you might want to watch it with them.

Conclusion: A decent family drama that doesn't do what it says on the tin.

Explosions: None.
Bullies: Some.
Ending: Confused.
Sympathetic teacher, crotchety teacher and annoying younger sister: All present and correct.
Killer squirrels: Several... or none. Or maybe several and none. Who knows if they're really there? Perhaps they're quantum squirrels - only there if you think they're there and spending the rest of the time hanging out with Schrodinger's Cat. Don't ask me - I'm off to watch The Goblet of Fire.

Rating: 3/5.

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