Bridge to Terabithia — movie good, trailers bad

The New York Times ran a story yesterday on the misleading ad campaign for Disney and Walden Media’s new version of Bridge to Terabithia — and along the way, they cite my interview with Katherine Paterson, though without quoting the exact words:

The reviews are in for “Bridge to Terabithia,” a new children’s film from Walt Disney and Walden Media: loved the movie, hated the trailer. . . .

Advertising campaigns for movies present a carefully edited, and often misleading, glimpse of the films they promote. But a funny thing happened after some fans began seeing advance screenings of “Bridge to Terabithia,” which opened Friday: Bloggers started telling people to ignore the ads and see the movie, as did both Ms. Paterson and the film’s director. . . .

Ms. Paterson, who was not involved in making the film but whose son David was a producer and screenwriter, said on the Web site that she was telling everyone to avoid seeing the trailers. The film’s director, Gabor Csupo, said that the filmmakers “had nothing to do with that promotion,” and that the film “is not a Harry Potter kind of a movie.” . . .

I must admit, the ads may have done their job, inasmuch as Bridge to Terabithia, with $22.6 million, had easily the highest opening weekend of any Walden Media film that doesn’t have the word “Narnia” in the title. The previous record was held by either Ray (2004; $20 million), which was produced by Walden’s subsidiary Bristol Bay, or Holes (2003; $16.3 million), which was produced by Walden proper. And if the good reviews and word-of-mouth keep the movie going, Bridge to Terabithia may even surpass the lifetime gross of Charlotte’s Web, which is currently Walden’s top- grossing non-Narnian film, with $81.5 million and counting.

But still, those ads did suck. And I still wish the movie hadn’t made those ads possible by deviating from the book as much as it did.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).

  • Olgy Gary

    I very much enjoyed reading your CT article, “An ‘Unsafe’ Bridge” where you interview Katherine Paterson on the making of the movie from her 1977 Newbery Medal winner “Bridge to Terabithia.” Great questions you asked her on what is a story and the trend of wanting to provide “safe” reading for families. I loved her replies to your questions! Excellent all around. I’ll be linking back to your CT article and your blog from the CCF site.