Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Children's Films: Bridge to Terabithia vs. The Last Mimzy

One film is a wonderful journey into the pre-teen mind, while the other is a sterile movie where badly behaved children model their behavior. One is highly recommended for the appropriate age group; the other should be avoided by all age groups.

Bridge to Terabithia actually started out by being a disappointment to me, and I've heard from others that this was true for them as well. It was marketed as a modern-day Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, trailers talked about and showed shadows of the monsters the children faced in the film. However, these turned out to be bad special effects featured fleetingly. But, as time went on and I got more engrossed in what was happening and began to care about these kids, I discovered I was really enjoying this film for different reasons.

Parents actually may hail the lack of special effects in this film, finally in any children's film, because this movie is not about effects, but about relationships. It's mainly about a friendship between a boy and a girl at a local middle school. He's been there awhile, and knows how to jockey around the bullies, but she doesn't. So he helps her and a friendship is born, a friendship that takes them to "Terabithia," which is the undeveloped jungle just beyond their houses.

The acting is superb in Terabithia, both from the adults and kids. Young Josh Hutcherson, who plays Jesse, is the typical stoic kid. He doesn't tell you his feelings like movies might make you believe kids do. He's real. His new friend is played by actress Anna Sophia Robb, who has the biggest eyes you've ever seen. They're so expressive, you can't take your own eyes off them.

The Last Mimzy's two child characters are a boy of 10 and his 5-year-old sister. They live in a fairly typical rather well-to-do family who can afford to spend days at their beach house. While playing on the beach, they discover a sphere that has several toys in it. The toys are accompanied by a stuffed bunny, whom young Emma names Mimzy because of the buzzing that seems to come from it. Without giving too much away, the kids are given a task that is far more important than they could ever imagine.

However, in order to achieve this task, they must continually lie to their parents, a disturbing event when you consider how many kids will be watching this film. Cinematically speaking, nobody changes in this movie, and no character's relationships ever change. Things happen, but they're just things. It's a bit of a science fiction movie, but the worst kind, where objects take over the screen and the events that follow do not involve the human condition.

I really enjoyed seeing the adult actors in Last Mimzy, especially Timothy Hutton and Rainn Wilson, and the child actors are fine, too. There is just no journey, nothing that matters, for any of them.

So I would recommend Bridge to Terabithia for any age, or I should say, any age beyond 10 or so, or beyond sensitive children, due to themes involving life and death. In comparison, any age could and should skip The Last Mimzy.

Thumb's up for Bridge to Terabithia. Thumb's down for The Last Mimzy.


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