If you haven't read the book, and you haven't seen the movie, run like hell, because I'm going to spoil the whole thing in this post. Starting now.
Now, if you've seen the trailers for the new version, you've seen giants and ogres and all sorts of magical beasties and a computer-generated land of wonder. None of that is in the book, and none of it is in the 1985 movie. None of it's necessary, and it serves to screw up a good story.
The story is this (remember, spoilers!):
Eleven year old Jesse Aaron lives in the country with his parents and three sisters in economic conditions that can charitably be called "poor". Leslie just moved in down the road, and the two of them become fast friends after she beats him in a race. Together they explore the forest near their homes, and in their imaginations they dream up a make-believe kingdom they dub "Terabithia" and crown themselves king and queen. No fantasy creatures... no wild adventures... just two kids, in a special place they can call their own. Their castle is a quilt stretched over some scrap lumber. It's what kids do (or at least what I did when I was that age). Terabithia is reached by way of a fallen tree over a creek. That is the titular bridge.This is a story about two kids with a special relationship. They love each other in the purest sense of that word. The story gives a needed lesson in how to handle grief, and as such I'd recommend the book or the 1985 movie to anybody, especially for pre-teens for whom it is targeted.
Did I mention that Jesse was poor? He does draw, however, and his teacher (played by Annette O'Toole) recognizes and encourages his talent. One rainy Saturday she takes him to the city to visit an art museum. Upon his return, Jesse learns that Leslie slipped on the log bridge, hit her head, and died. Trying to help Jesse through his grief, Annette O'Toole delivers excellent advice, saying, "You won't believe me, but you're lucky." She tells Jesse that Leslie was very special, and in knowing her, he holds some of what made her special inside of him. Now he has the opportunity to pass that on to other people.
After the funeral, Jesse returns to Terabithia to hold a touching service of his own. His little sister, Annabelle, follows him and is stuck, frightened, on the log bridge. Jesse helps her across, and tells her he wants to show her something special. He takes her to Terabithia and crowns her Princess.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with fantasy creatures. The bone-headed, clueless morons at Disney should be shot for once again blatantly mishandling a story and misleading their audience. Their trailer is a textbook case of bait-and-switch. Their changes are completely worthless, adding nothing at all to a story that stands much better on its own.
I can't say I'm surprised, though. They totally screwed up The Little Mermaid by removing the exquisite ending crafted by Hans Christian Andersen (the master of pathos, in my book). They did it again with Pocahontas (fyi, the real Pocahontas converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, and moved to England. All that about painting with the colors of the wind is a bunch of politically correct historical revisionist bullshit. I say that as someone whose father was native American, so I'll stack my umbrage against anyone else's anyday). Disney screws up every story they can get their hands on to the greatest extent possible, and don't even bother to come up with original stories for most of it, choosing instead to plagiarize dead people who are no longer in a position to sue their sorry butts... but I digress.
Look, don't see the new movie. If you want to see a good movie with a good message and not an overblown videogame with a sock to the gut in the final moments, then go to Wal-mart and get the 1985 version off the $5.50 rack. Better yet, buy the book.
Bridge to Terabithia