Sunday, February 25, 2007

First Impressions

No weekly movie night this week. Amber and I had free movie tickets from the rewards card we have, and yesterday was the last day we could use them. We figured our waiting for a big movie was over, better get to a theatre or throw them out. The choices were pretty slim, this being Alaska none of the smaller release films I'm interested in were playing. We ended up going to see Bridge to Terabithia, a film that I wanted nothing to do with. Amber is just lucky that I'm much more lax in my movie viewing restrictions. As I've said before, I won't turn it down if I haven't seen it before. Special Exceptions to this rule will be made for gay porn. The punchline to all this is; our tickets were no good because it was a starred attraction. But, we'd made the trek to the theatre, so we couldn't say no now.

As I said, I wanted nothing to do with the movie. The previews I'd seen made it look like a crappy Narnia rip-off(which, you could argue, was itself a crappy Narnia rip-off), and the case for quality was not helped any by the fact that I had heard nothing about it until very shortly before the release date. When you read as many movie mags and websites as I do, it's hard to find a movie you haven't at least HEARD about. So small was my anticipation for this movie that I left after the movie had begun to get snacks, and I *NEVER* leave the theatre between the time the lights go down to the time they come back up, I even watch all the end credits.

In the end, the movie was really not all that bad. I should preface all of this by saying I hate kids in movies. I hate the way they look, dressed up by adults who are usually trying too hard to make them look hip, and I especially hate the way they talk, reciting lines written by someone in their 30s or 40s whose trying to sound young. The dialog in these films is always grating to my ear, and this was no exception. Although, I'll be fair, I've seen MUCH worse. This was fairly inoffensive as these movies go.

Normally I wouldn't even be mentioning this film, except for the fact that I think a lot of people who would enjoy it are going to pass it on by, because of a HORRIBLE marketing campaign by Disney. The trailers lead you to believe, as I had earlier, that this film is nothing but a quick cash-in by Disney and Walden Media to capitalize on the fantasy boom heralded by Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I realize the books been around awhile(since the 70s, anyway), but I'm accusing them of grabbing the first family-values, vaguely pro-christian book they could find with fantasy elements. Well, I guess on the surface that's a correct assumption, but it also missing the point.

The film concerns a blue-collar boy who's constantly teased at school for no concrete reason. He's called, disparagingly, 'farmer's son', but only once, and the teasing doesn't seemed centered on his monetary status. But kids are mean, so lets move on. No one at school likes him, and he feels disconnected from his family. Enter Leslie(AnnaSophia Robb), doing an adolescent version of the popular 'pixie girl' from countless romantic comedies. The bubbly, kinda spacey, generically 'weird' artistic girl who takes a liking(for no good reason) to our boring hero, and through all of her charming irreverence pulls him out of his shell and makes him into a better person. You can easily identify her by her perfectly spiky, mussed hair of a fashion that Meg Ryan popularized a few years back, and the fact that while all of the other kids wear clothes, she wears outfits and accesories!

The Terabithia of the title is an imaginary land the children invent while playing in the woods. Yes, you read that correctly, an imaginary land. There isn't really a Terabithia, or a real fantasy story here. There are fantasy elements, and while the fantasy sequences are quite real to the kids, it's very clear that they are only imagining all of this. I Guess meth really is a problem in the heartland. That may actually be my largest complaint with this movie; that the fantasy sequences are too obviously not real, and pretty straight-forward in their execution. If the director had only put a little more wonder and whimsy into those parts of the film it would have heightened the emotion of this whole movie. Outside of the fantasy segments, the film deals with the various problems you'd expect from a Disney film; bullies, family problems(money woes, no child abuse here), love problems, etc. And that is actually the focus of the movie, the awakening of this kid into how wonderful the world around him is.

There's a dramatic twist near the end that heightens this film out of the ABC Family level of emotional mush, but it really doesn't do enough. In the end I liked it, as I suppose is obvious, but it may be more to do with my shattered expectations than anything else, because as I thought about it more, I realized it wasn't really a great film. But it was an OK film, one that's worth the time if not the money, and it should have been given more credit by Disney.

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