Bridge to Terabithia is a 2007 coming of age fantasy drama film distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media based on the novel by Katherine Paterson. It stars Josh Hutcherson as Jess Aarons and AnnaSophia Robb as Leslie Burke.
The film is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures in the US. It stars Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Bailee Madison, and Zooey Deschanel. It tells the story of Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke, twelve-year-old neighbors who create a fantasy world called Terabithia and spend their free time together in an abandoned tree house.
Screenwriter David Paterson is Katherine Paterson's son, and the novel is based on parts of his childhood. When he asked her if he could write a screenplay of it, she agreed because of his ability as a playwright. Production began in February 2006, and the film was finished by November. Principal photography was shot in Auckland, New Zealand within sixty days. Film editing took ten weeks, while post-production, music mixing, and visual effects took several months.
The film was released theatrically in the US and Canada on February 16, 2007. It was a financial success, and with a budget of around $20 million, it had a worldwide gross of US$137 million. It received positive reviews; critics called it a faithful adaption of the children's novel, and found dynamic visuals and natural performances further enhanced the imaginative film. It was nominated for seven awards, winning five at the Young Artist Awards.
Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is a fifth grader and aspiring artist living with his financially struggling family in Lark Creek. He rides the bus to school with his little sister, May Belle (Bailee Madison), where he avoids the school bully, Janice Avery (Lauren Clinton). In class, he is teased by classmates Scott Hoager (Cameron Wakefield) and Gary Fulcher (Elliot Lawless), and meets a new student named Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb). At recess, he enters a running event, for which he had been training at home. Leslie also enters and manages to beat all the boys, much to his irritation. On the way home, he and Leslie learn that they are next-door neighbors.
Later in the evening, Jess becomes frustrated when he finds that May Belle has drawn in his notebook, but his strict father, Jack (Robert Patrick), sides with her. The next day at school, Leslie compliments his drawing ability after seeing his notebook, and they soon become the best of friends. After school, they venture into the woods and swing across a creek on a rope. They find an abandoned tree house and a broken down truck on the other side, and invent a new world, which they call Terabithia. The fantasy world, which is a reflection on their lives, comes to life through their eyes as they explore the surroundings. For the next few days, they spend their free time in the tree house getting to know each other, and they fight with various creatures resembling students at school.
Leslie gives Jess an art kit for his birthday, much to his delight. Later, he gives her a puppy, who she names Prince Terrien (P.T.). At school, May Belle shows her friend, Alexandra, what she got in her snack, Twinkies. Jess tells her that she should not brag about them. At recess, she screams toward him and Leslie saying that Janice stole them. Leslie becomes frustrated by Janice's fee for entering the bathroom. Jess and Leslie play a prank on her, and she becomes the laughing stock of everyone on the bus. Once Leslie's parents finish writing their book, she and Jess help paint their house. Jess is impressed by their happiness, and smiles as he watches them. At school on Friday, Leslie hears Janice crying in the bathroom. After Leslie talks with her, she discovers that the reason why she is a bully is because she is abused by her father, and they become friends.
Leslie joins Jess at church the following Sunday, and is fascinated, but May Belle warns her that if she doesn't believe, she'll go to Hell when she dies. Later in the week, Jess borrows his dad's keys to get a drill out of the greenhouse, but then they disappear. Leslie, with help from May Belle, had taken them to use as bells for Terabithia. Jess, Leslie, and P.T. head to Terabithia to get them back. Eventually. they receive help from a troll resembling Janice, and they get the keys back. They decide to go home when it starts raining and the creek gets higher than usual, and he smiles as she runs back to her house, realizing that he has fallen in love with her.
The next morning, Miss Edmunds (Zooey Deschanel), Jess' music teacher, calls to invite him on a one-on-one field trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. He tries to ask his mother Nancy's permission, however, she is half-asleep and he takes her mumbling as approval. He does not ask Leslie to accompany him, and merely looks at her house as they drive by. When he returns home, he finds that his parents are worried sick because they did not know where he was. Jack tells him that Leslie drowned in the creek earlier that morning. He is deeply grieved, and he and his parents later visit her house to pay their respects. Her father, Bill (Latham Gaines), tells him that she loved him, and thanks him for being such a good friend to her, since she had trouble making friends at her old school. Then after Jess angrily punches Scott, Mrs. Myers (Jen Wolfe) sadly explains to Jess about Leslie's death
One day, he crosses the creek again thanks to a tree that had fallen over it. When he hears Leslie calls him, he sees May Belle. After he helped her, he furiously lashes out at her to go home and pushes her, which hurts her feelings. Then as he sees a dark shadow, he immediately runs, but trips. However, the dark figure was revealed to be Jack. Jess breaks into tears, feeling overwhelming guilt for Leslie's death, and saying he should be punished because it was his fault, but Jack comforts him to keep their lasting friendship alive for her sake. That night, Jess apologizes to May Belle and she misses talking to him. Next day, he decides to reimagine Terabithia, and using the wood in the Burkes' yard, builds a bridge across the creek over the fallen tree to welcome a new ruler. He invites May Belle to enter Terabithia; she is delighted because she was previously denied any opportunity to do so. They bring back Terabithia in even greater splendor, with him as king and her as the new queen.
- Josh Hutcherson as Jess Aarons
- AnnaSophia Robb as Leslie Burke
- Bailee Madison as May Belle Aarons
- Lauren Clinton as Janice Avery
- Cameron Wakefield as Scott Hoager
- Elliot Lawless as Gary Fulcher
- Isabelle Kircher as Carla
- Carly Owen as Madison
- Robert Patrick as Jack Aarons
- Kate Butler as Nancy Aarons
- Latham Gaines as Bill Burke
- Judy McIntosh as Judy Burke
- Zooey Deschanel as Miss Edmunds
- Patricia Aldersley as Grandma Burke (at Leslie's funeral)
- Jen Wolfe as Ms. Myers
- James Gaylayn as Principal Turner
- Ian Harcourt as Kenny (bus driver)
- Devon Wood as Brenda Aarons
- Emma Fenton as Ellie Aarons
- Grace Brannigan as Joyce Ann Aarons
Differences from the book
The book has several noticeable differences from the film; commonly noticed ones are Leslie's appearance and the switch of roles at certain parts of the story.
- In the book Jess waves to Janice when he gets off the bus. In the film Leslie does so.
- In the book, Jess' parents are wary about him hanging around with a girl. In the film Nancy is pleased.
- In the book Leslie introduces herself to Jess at the fence between their houses before school starts. In the film they first meet when she is placed in his class.
- In the book Jess goes to the grove of pines (not present in the film) with a wreath, instead of making a boat like in the film.
- In the book Jess has trouble figuring out Leslie's gender on their first meeting. In the film she is clearly a girl.
- In the book Leslie's character is an agnostic atheist. In the film she just lacks Jess' Christian beliefs.
- In the book Jess receives the toy race car playset for Christmas. In the film he receives it for his birthday. In the commentary, it was stated that the crew was working with different seasons and they couldn't use the original story.
- In the film Leslie is a slightly different character and thus handles situations differently. She runs away when Jess confronts her after she tells the class that she doesn't have a television, while in the film she withdraws it all. In the book there are different instances where she raises her voice or pulled stern looks. In the film there are none.
- In the book, Leslie's hair is brown and Jess' is blonde. In the film it's the other way round.
- In the book Leslie refers to her parents by their first names, rather than as "Mom" and "Dad" (as part of their new-age upbringing). Also, they come across as hippies. In the film this plot element is lost.