02/27/2007 11:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Distressing Movie Experience

Not a movie I would normally go to--The Bridge to Terabithia--but the timing was right at the theatre I happened to pass by when I was gripped by the irresistible "I want to see a movie" urge. The poster said some beloved novel was being brought to life, or something like that. I had never heard of it. But the timing was right so I got the ticket, went in, prodded my inner child into consciousness, and settled down to watch the flick.

I felt like I got the drift right away. Girl-power + sensitive boy + middle school outsiders = sublimated romance in a fantasy world of their own creation. Both these supposed outsiders were preternaturally gorgeous--the girl especially looked like she was about to step onto a runway in Milan--but what the hell, that's just what you get in a this type of Disney thing, and I let it slide. Things unfolded predictably, and therefore comfortingly, for an hour or so and I cruised contentedly along until, all of a sudden, out of the blue--the girl dies in a freak accident.

They killed the main girl in a fantasy Disney movie for kids.

I felt violated. I felt alarmed. I thought I had bought a puppy in a box and then, when I opened it, I got a slavering beast.

Then, weirdly, as a few barely noticed scenes of families visiting and mourning flickered by, the thought occurred to me: unexpected death is like this, random, meaningless, sudden--violating in the profoundest way. Violating of all one's expectations of daily life, of routine, of known places and faces and voices that are always there. Was this violation of a Disney kid movie genre meant to evoke the violation which is a sudden accidental death? Could it be, I wondered, that this movie is actually some work of art smuggled out of the entertainment empire by some secret cabal of revolutionary geniuses?

That thought was, in a way, even more unsettling--the fact that I was even considering so unlikely a hypothesis. But at least it returned my attention to the movie, led me to look for evidence of design.

Alas, it was not forthcoming. Or, rather, there was much evidence of design--but not the kind I had imagined. There was instead the usual, digitally enhanced, smarmy wrap-up of magic and over-the-rainbow redemption which made it clear that the powerful effect the movie had on me was entirely accidental.

Which put me back in the same loop as before.

Also distressing.