Jesse Aaron's biggest dream is to be the fastest runner in 5th grade. But on the first day of school, a new girl in Jesse's class called Leslie Burke overruns every boy, including Jesse. Then, surprisingly, Jesse and Leslie become best friends. And together, they create a secret kingdom, called Terabithia, on a dry creek bed with an old crab apple tree. But one day, tragedy strikes. A touching story of friendship. Is the winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal.
Another visual stunner from Disney, Bridge to Terabithia tells a moving story of the most difficult period in a boy's childhood. Tethered to problems in his family and at school, Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) suddenly finds a friend, Leslie Burke (in a standout performance by AnnaSophia Robb), who cuts the tethers. Together, the friends are free to transcend their lives in a small, rural town and explore the reaches of their imagination. But something goes horribly wrong, and Jess must face the demons in his real life before he can realize his talents and self-worth embodied in his fantasy world.
The fantasy world of Terabithia embodies the imagination of the children in the film. Like a supporting actor, this world does not play a leading role, but the special effects add intrigue and excitement and look stunning in 1080p.
In an era when kids' films focus on hip hop, nontraditional families, city life and teenage crushes dripping with sexual energy, Disney has given us a wholesome exploration of a boy's world. His family, friends, even the furthest reaches of his dreams--all are shown with care and depth. Jess doesn't even have to say much to convey all of the emotions and thoughts that fill his head. That is how Bridge to Terabithia works well, remaining accessible to all viewers without requiring too much of its young actors.
From the opening moments of the film, as Jess runs in the countryside and his father, played by Robert Patrick, walks near the family's house, the stellar picture quality will please even the most critical eye. Skin tones and earth tones are especially rich and solid. The resolution is lifelike. Disney, like Sony, is making the most of Blu-ray's 1080P capability using the BD-50, MPEG-4 AVC specs, and it shows. And fans of a wide-screen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with no "black bars" will be happy the filmmakers chose that format for Bridge to Terabithia.
The CGI and postproduction effects, even as the credits roll, are pure eye-candy. The story is so powerful that the film could survive without these effects. Some viewers have commented that the Terabithia world should have been a bigger part of the film and explored and explained more extensively. But Terabithia is really just the kids' imagination at work. The producers use this world as an excuse to design fantastic creatures and structures.
As with all CGI work, the postproduction seems to flatten the picture. Most of the scenes in the film appear so real, one gets the feeling they could step inside the screen. The picture showcases tremendous depth and videostaging, especially when viewing forests and fields. But when the kids climb into the treetops and the full view of Terabithia is shown for the first time, the screen appears 2-D, flat.
Sure, it's a lush, gorgeous vista, detailed, with mountains and waterfalls. But the rest of the film looks better than the CGI world. I suppose it's somewhat obvious that the real world will trump the graphically manipulated world in terms of visual cues, but it needs to be stated just the same. It's a minor complaint. The creatures and forest-scape of Terabithia will please fantasy buffs and probably everyone else who isn't looking for flaws.
Where the CGI picture falls a bit flat for brief moments, the 24-bit 48 kHz uncompressed PCM surges with dynamic rigor. I was pleased to hear deep-bass rumble during many of the more dramatic moments, which will scare kids even more than the visuals. Before we even see the forest troll, we hear its footsteps. My subwoofer shook the floor with a tight, almost subsonic pounding.
We have a great variety of sounds to enjoy here. The dialog was crisp, with incredible presence and palpability. The audio engineers made good use of the surround channels. During the rainstorm in the forest, we hear water pouring down all around us. It's convincing. I almost busted out the umbrella. During the school scenes, many kids pick instruments and sing along with their teacher. This audio is recorded very well, and is the perfect companion to the awesome picture quality.
My only complaint lies in the soundtrack. Both the mix and the selection of music was subpar and hurt the movie. I know Bridge to Terabithia is supposed to appeal to kids, but does it really need so much pop rock? This music didn't work for me--not even during the school scenes that are drenched with juvenile angst. It clashes with the serious, dramatic nature of the plot. To make matters worse, this rock was mixed wrong. It was heavy in the surround speakers and the vocals and guitars that should be prominent in the mix instead sound veiled and anemic. Again, a minor complaint given the overall excellent audio.
Ample bonus features are included on this BD. As with the feature film, the bonus material is in 1080P. A "Backstage" supplement showcases the digital tracks used to bring Terabithia to life, provides insight into the themes and delivers a music video starring AnnaSophia Robb.
And speaking of Miss Robb, her performance in this film was spellbinding. It's difficult to fully discuss her role or other aspects of the plot without spoilers, but Robb stole the show here. Her presence was haunting and charming. It should be said that this film grapples with issues of death and may not be appropriate for young children. But ultimately the message of this film is the importance of friends and family, art, music and of course imagination. As such, Disney has reemerged as an important studio. Like its movies of yesteryear that taught us life lessons, Old Yeller for example, Bridge to Terabithia shows what makes the people and stories of middle America so special.
Blu-ray bundles with Bridge to Terabithia (2 bundles)