So, I got home from the movie last night, intending to post and one of the first things I see online is this post from Liz.
Spoilers for book and movie follow!
Let me start by saying that Bridge to Terabithia is one of my favorite books. It has been since I got over the fact that my mother was recommending it to me and finally read it, probably in ninth grade. I've read it many times, and sobbed through the ending every single time. Except the last. I reread the book in preparation for the movie a few weeks ago and was surprised by how little I was moved by the book. Perhaps this was caused by the fact that I was constantly wondering how the beautiful story I was reading would make it on to the big screen.
The trailers, the hideous trailers. I'd been anticipating this movie since I heard about it at the Toronto ALA conference in 2003. (At least I think that was the conference.) And then I saw the trailers and swore I would never watch the movie. Gradually I began to steel myself to the fact that I couldn't resist seeing how giants and other fantastical creatures made their way in, and would have to see the train wreck sooner or later. This article on the making of the movie (which I found thanks to Laurie Halse Anderson)made me want to see it a lot sooner than later.
What does all this lead up build to? Simply, that it is truly a wonderful movie, that touched me in the way the book usually does. The first time Leslie swung out over the water on the rope, the freedom and joy, and yes, magic, caused tears to prick my eyes. The fantastical, Narnia-esque was woven in to the story beautifully. The only disappoint I felt was at the end, which, though true to the book, was a little to cheesy* for my taste. (Oh, and the bad continuity in costuming toward the end.)
I believe this is one of the most true to the book movies I have ever seen, rivaling the Wonderworks version of A Little Princess and the Hallmark version of The Secret Garden.
*As my high school sophomore English teacher would say, "Cheese spewing forth."
ETA: A Note on the Audience
The misleading promos worked, the theater was pretty packed. I wonder how more realistic promos would have fared in comparison. At least half of the audience were kids much younger than I would ever recommend the book to and as I sat there, waiting for the lights to dim and being overly annoyed by some loud talkers behind me, I wondered how many parents had done their research into the film before bringing the youngsters. The woman in front of me clearly had not. I did not hear the comment the five year old boy with her made, but her response was an aggravated "No it was a good movie, just not what I expected."
Just a couple of notes more, on the signs of good storytelling. When Jess came home from the art museum and the change in mood is obvious, the entire audience was as silent as the characters on the screen. And then, when his father spoke, informing him of Leslie's death, there were several audible gasps. Finally, when the credits began to roll, there was actually applause. I've been to only two or three other movies, that received actual applause. My heart is warmed to know that the book has not been ruined by a horrible movie.