• Share
  • Tweet
  • Share

Review in a Hurry: Beloved kids' novel makes it to the big-screen unscathed, with very real childhood relationships, surreal special effects and a big weepie ending.

The Bigger Picture: The novel Bridge to Terabithia first captured kids' imaginations in 1977, and Disney got their slippery little hands on the property, probably aching to muck it all up with outrageous effects and syrupy dialogue. Luckily, author Katherine Paterson’s son David pitched in on the script, and maybe that’s how this beloved classic survived the journey from book to film unscathed.

Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is a young boy outnumbered in a family full of women, with a gruff, distant father (Robert Patrick) ruling the roost. A shy but promising artist, he can't seem to live up to his dad's macho standards, and he definitely can't get a break from the bullies at school.

When the kookily dressed and wildly imaginative Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) comes to town, he's found his kindred spirit. Where Jess sees dragonflies, she sees warriors; where he sees humdrum countryside, she sees a splendid mountain range.

The filmmakers carefully render her fantasies into computer-generated creatures that are just right in their surrealism—special effects that are, well, affecting.

Jess and Leslie’s bond truthfully portrays the sometimes halting, always complicated relationships kids have when they’re trying to come into their own, and most anyone can relate. When their relationship changes suddenly, the movie grows into itself, handling difficult subject matter with a graceful touch. There isn't a dry eye in the house.

Thirtysomethings who have read the book in grade school and their kids who have just turned the last page will both be enthralled. A word of warning: Bring tissues. Lots of them.