DVD Review: 'Bridge to Terabithia'
Extras highlight magical story and performances
While the disc isn't packed to the gills, enough of the bonus features highlight the source material, CGI effects and actors -- all of which contributed to the film's magic.
Even though "Bridge" features fantasy elements that are essential to the plot, it deals honestly with the characters' real-life relationships and situations. Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) is a lonely fifth grader with too many sisters living in a family with too little money to feed all those mouths. With so many family members and the constant bullying attention at school, Jesse finds peace in drawing.
When the new girl Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) enters school, she proves to be a bit of an outcast too, beating the fastest boys in a footrace. The two become reluctant and then fast friends when it turns out Leslie's vivid storytelling imagination is just the right balance for Jesse's artistic spirit.
In the "Behind the Book" featurette, author Katherine Paterson gives insight into what inspired the story: how her own son once lost a friend in a freak accident when he was only 8 years old. Teachers, librarians and the actors give their opinion on what makes the story so timeless, examining the themes of relationships, identity, creativity and tolerance while scenes from the film illustrate passages read straight from the book.
Less reflective is the featurette on the digital effects used to create the fantastical creatures in the film. Kids will especially enjoy seeing how WETA (which created the amazing designs in the "Lord of the Rings" films) based some of these furry or feathered beings on the actors/characters in the story.
Both commentaries balance some rather technical jargon with fun behind-the-scenes insights. The commentary featuring director Gabor Csupo, writer Jeff Stockwell and producer Hal Lieberman reveals that since the film was shot in New Zealand, many of the supporting cast's voices had to be redubbed in American accents and that Maori children can often be spotted in the background. Another intriguing tidbit is Leslie's essay about scuba diving and how it foreshadows her fate.
The second commentary features producer Lauren Levine and the two young leads, who obviously share a natural chemistry off screen as well. Some fun facts include how the actors used wirework to climb the trees, how there are no squirrels in New Zealand and so they had to be added using CGI, and why Robb likes buses.
Robb also sings and stars in her own music video, "Keep Your Mind Wide Open." She looks very cute and fresh singing into a microphone set in a colorful music room, but there's very little plot to the video other than clips from the film.
In the end, the extras are merely that, something that is a fun diversion but not really necessary to the enjoyment of what is an already entertaining film.
EXTRAS: Filmmaker commentary; actor and producer commentary; "Digital Animation: Bringing Terabithia to Life"; "Behind the Book: The Themes of Bridge to Terabithia"; "Keep Your Mind Wide Open" music video