Placed in the semi-rural outcroppings of Virginia, seventh-grader Jesse Owens (Josh Hutcherson) is torn between his love of drawing and society's realism, chores and school. During an awkward phase of being bullied and trying to save small animals from his father (both portrayed in true Disney fashion), he forms a bond of friendship with fellow student and neighbor Leslie Burkes. The beautiful and witty-for-her-age Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) breaks Jesse out of his self-exile from society and releases both of their imaginations into Terabithia: a magical land portrayed (rather artistically) through the children's imaginations. The pair complement each other magically, both as actors and in the story.
When the children cross the real-life river to enter Terabithia, it symbolizes their separation from society -- a place where they can work out their problems through the world they create. At first, this imagination is harnessed just as flimsily as the CGI world of Terabithia. But each step of progress -- especially the introduction of Robb -- is true to the emotional content of the book. That's a rare feat for any adaptation.
The special features include a "Behind the Book" look through the eyes of the actors, director, and even some words from the book's author, Katherine Paterson, all of which are definitely worth watching. There is also a music video by Robb which is great, if you're into bubblegum pop.
Director Gabor Csupo captures Paterson's themes of a monumental friendship, and manages to conclude the movie with a well-thought-out life lesson: Not everything turns out to be a happy ending, but you learn to live with it.
Remember when imagination bordered on reality and the road to other worlds was just a thought away? If you can, watch this movie; if you can't, you're missing out in more ways than one.