I learned about this DVD's release date some weeks ago, and, having missed out when I was a kid, I located the 128-page title story at a used book store and read it before my viewing. It was kind of boring for my taste, but the volume's themes—a boy befriends a young new girl at his school, then expands his imagination into a pretend world—were pointed. But there were scant few descriptions of their scrap wood "kingdom." It was much more about the characters.
If I hadn't read the book, Bridge To Terabithia would've been an on-the-good-side-of-average rental choice. It's cute. It's mindless fun, a shed tear and some neat special effects. But since I did read Catherine Paterson's novella, I couldn't help but hate the film.
I cursed the screenwriter. The original story was set in the late '70s, when it was written. But it never lost relevance. Why, then, would you update the story? And why change every little detail? I assumed Paterson must've lost control of the project to the famed family studio. But even more maddening was my discovery that her real-life son—on whom the story was based—helped pen the screenplay!
Several plot elements are the same, but the guiding themes behind the book are gone, buried in a Disney- and Walden-generated world of forest dwelling creatures designed to make a quick buck. My advice: skip the film, read the book.