Bridge to Terabithia [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (14th July 2007).
The Film

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005) was a pretty good film, it had its flaws but overall was a fairly adequate adaptation will enough fun for the kids. Made by Walden Media and Disney the film enjoyed a certain amount of success, "Bridge to Terabithia" is also made by the same company and continues in the spirit of fantasy adventure fodder for kids. The advertising for this film was very much centred around the fact that it's from the people that 'brought you' "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" which in some ways was slightly deceptive creating an expectation that these films are similar. While the fantasy world element is shared in both stories these films are very different, most notably in tone. Don't go in expecting a magical happy film; this is a drama for young people with a very hard hitting emotional core.
"Bridge to Terabithia" tells the story of Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), Jesse is struggling to cope at school, his family's financial problems means that he has to wear girl's hand-me-down shoes, not a popular item among boys and his disposition makes him a target for bully Scott (Cameron Wakefield). His school problems aren't all that bother's Jesse, he finds that he constantly has to battle for the attention of his father (Robert Patrick) from a household of sisters. One day Jesse looses a race to the 'new girl', Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), Leslie is an imaginative young girl who eventually forms a bond with Jesse, a bond that will change the course of their lives and create an imaginary world in the woods that only they share, Terabithia, a land where they can forget their real life problems of school and parents.
For what is essentially a children's fantasy tale I found that the script was not only well written but mature in its approach as to not be patronizing to younger viewers, the film's emotional core is partly the reason. However in doing the film's structure some definite good it may have also done the film some harm, the emotional plot line for the film hits very hard, maybe too hard for younger children...I guarantee there won't be a dry eye left in the house during the film's third act.
Further, the young actors leading this film: Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb delivered solid performances that felt natural and believable. Their friendship is given time to develop and the progression is handled well by first time feature-filmmaker Gabor Csupo. I did find however that character May Belle played by Bailee Madison was probably the most annoying young character to grace the screen since Jake Lloyd in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999). The same can also be said about some of the other minor characters are populate the school our two leads attend, as they all seemed like clich├ęd cardboard cut-outs: the misunderstood older girl that takes out her aggression on younger kids, the stubborn bully and his dim-witted side-kick, and so on...
A pleasant surprise was the always refreshing Zooey Deschanel as their teacher, this actress is severely underrated and adds a charm and understanding-of-childhood-woes approach to the film, it's a shame we was underused.
Cast aside this is after all a fantasy film, the land of Terabithia belongs to both Jesse and Leslie, however I was ultimately disappointed with the lack of imagination seen onscreen, in fact hardly anything came to fruition until the very end and what we did get was largely a made-for-TV feel to the whole fantasy land. Award winning Weta Digital did the special effects for this film and it's not up to their usual standard in this reviewer's opinion. Next to "Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) it's probably their weakest effort.
"Bridge to Terabithia" is an entertaining film, flaws aside it does have a well written core and director Csupo has delivered a fairly solid first feature film, after all it's a very good starting point in which he can only improve for the next film.

Video

Although the packaging states that this is a Region (A) coded disc it is in fact Region free.

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this transfer is presented in full 1080p 24/fps and created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Much like the DVD release this high-definition transfer is a solid entry into the Blu-ray catalogue of product from Buena Vista. Taking the image quality to the next level this release presents the film brilliantly with sharpness and color contrast being the draw cards of the transfer. Detail is beautifully rendered and crystal clear, some of the effects look a bit more artificial on this release than the DVD edition but that's a minor drawback. As expected skin tones are natural and black levels are bold and deep with shadow detail remaining consistent throughout. Aside from the artificial look of the visual effects and some very minor instances of grain this is another excellent transfer from Buena Vista.

Audio

Four audio tracks are also included in English uncompressed PCM 5.1 transferred at 6.9 Mbps as well as standard tracks in English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and also in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English PCM soundtrack. The uncompressed track on this Blu-ray disc feels much more open and spacious than the standard Dolby Digital tracks on this disc (and that are also featured on the DVD release). With dialogue coming across clearly the immersive nature of the track rests upon its detailed and ambient mix that incorporates subtle directional effects with the film's moving score. The aggressiveness of the track kicks in during some of the film more fantasy heavy sequences but don't expect the same range and depth relegated to action films here, this track's depth is measured in different ways lending more focus to atmosphere and music than anything else.

Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has included two audio commentaries, two featurettes, a music video and a handful of bonus trailers as extras on this release. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The first feature-length audio commentary is with the film's director Gabor Csupso, co-screenwriter Jeff Stockwell and co-producer Hal Lieberman. This track is a standard production-process track that goes through the motions in describing the adaptation process and the various incarnations of the script that were created before the final version was complete, the track also looks at the themes and symbolism amid the picture, directorial decisions and creative choices made throughout the production as the director provides a limited insight into his process (this might have more to do with his thick accent and limited English), the producer chimes in occasionally with his opinions on how the production fared and generally agreeing with both Csupso and Stockwell.

The second feature-length audio commentary is with co-producer Lauren Levine and actors Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb, unlike the first track this is a much lighter tone that kids might be interested in listening (although I don't know many kids that actually listen to commentary tracks), producer Levine is very much the adult voice here commenting on various aspects of the production but Hutcherson and Robb take over the majority of the track as they share their experiences in making the film and how much fun they had during the shooting. The track is fairly screen-specific and is mainly kept informal; the two actors find the most uninteresting and often unimportant things to comment on, with occasionally veering into 'interesting' territory. A handful of praise is also dished out to various cast and crew throughout the track which does get boring very quickly.

The first featurette is entitled "Behind the Book: The themes of Bridge To Terabithia", which runs for 14 minutes 33 seconds. In this clip we get a look at the general appeal of the book and how kids can relate to the characters and their situations. It also looks at how the book is used by educators in school curriculum to teach the themes and valuable lessons learned by the characters throughout their narrative journey. It's not a straight making-of the film but it's informative and interesting if only for a moment.

The second featurette is entitled "Digital Imagination: Bringing Bridge To Terabithia to Life" and runs for 5 minutes 56 seconds, this brief clip takes a look at translating what is essentially a child's imaginative interpretation of the fantasy land and the collaboration with Oscar winning special effects company Weta Digital to help create the creates and vast landscape of Terabithia.

Also on the disc is a music video for the song "Keep Your Mind Wide Open" performed by AnnaSophia Robb from the film's soundtrack and runs for 3 minutes 41 seconds.

Finally this first disc also includes a "Movie Showcase" which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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