The NeverEnding Story (1984) / Fantasy-Adventure
aka Die Unendliche Geschichte

MPAA Rated: PG for some scary moments
Running Time: 94 min.

Cast: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach, Gerald McRaney, Moses Gunn  
Director:
Wolfgang Petersen
Screenplay: Wolfgang Petersen, Herman Weigel
Review published January 25, 2002

I would suppose it doesn't always bode well for a film when the author of the book (Michael Ende) upon which it is based wants his name removed from the opening credits.  The Neverending Story is a much loved movie for those who saw it through the undiscriminating eyes of a child, and I suppose children, or those who are nostalgic, comprise most of the people that might want to watch it today.  So this presents me with a perplexing predicament.  Am I going to play the horrible ogre that must declare this film is cheesy dreck?  Do I actually have the gall to proclaim such a well-loved piece of classic 80s kiddy fantasy as mediocre schmaltz?

Yeah...I guess that's me.

First, the story....not to spoil it, but it does end at some point.  We start off with a young boy named Bastian (Oliver, D.A.R.Y.L.), whose life ain't so peachy, with a recently deceased mother, an aloof father (McRaney, "Simon & Simon"), and a school life which consists mostly of running from three bullies with apparently nothing better to do than whoop Bastian's ass at every available turn.  While running from the terrible trio, Bastian escapes into a bookstore where he pilfers a book entitled "The Neverending Story" which he takes to school with him and reads in the attic(?)  He reads the heroic tale of Atreyu (Hathaway, Battlestar Galactica), the boy warrior and his quest to save Fantasia from the dreaded Nothing.  Bastion becomes a little more involved in the story than he originally thought he should be.

The Neverending Story is a highly imaginative tale which just doesn't have what it takes to be a truly classic children's film.  One of the main detractions comes from the very thing most people might praise it for.  Sure, there is a lot of imagination put into the sets, costumes and special effects, but much of these things are crafted unattractively, and the ensuing characterizations are derivative and one-dimensional.  The sets are a combination of muck, goop and rocks, and one might wonder if the Rock-Biter didn't sneeze Fantasia into existence.  There are two concurrent stories, both of which merge as the narratives roll on; Bastian searches for inner-strength through imagination, while his fictional counterpart, Atreyu, searches for...um...the name of Fantasia's princess?? Regardless of the parallel themes, the way in which these stories merge leads to some unintentional humor, often delving into the realm of unprecedented cornball absurdity.

Ok, so I gather one might praise The Neverending Story because it teaches kids great things like...um...reading is cool and...um...imagination is cool...and um...ummm...

I feel the need for a list here...


 10 Things I "learned" from watching The Neverending Story

1.  No amount of drinking can possibly erase a Giorgio Moroder theme song from memory.

2.  Contrary to popular belief, school bullies are actually quite studious, chasing their weaker prey while their backpacks are crammed to the max with books.

3. Until viewing this film, I had no knowledge of the existence of the school attic.  I often wondered where the school kept all of its skeletons, animal heads, candles and mice. 

4. It is OK for children to steal what they like from local patrons provided they leave a note that they will return the item later.

5. The more unintelligible a name is, the more beautiful it must be.

6. If you have the ability to make all your dreams come true, make sure that the first thing you do is a noble thing, like flying through the air on a giant Pound Puppy in order to torment your fellow schoolmates.  Such things as bringing back one's dead mother can wait until after your bloodlust has been fully quenched.

7. The proper medium for showcasing the power of reading and using one's own imagination is through watching a movie.

8. The door to a child's imagination will most likely be opened by a crusty old man who doesn't like children and who scoffs at videogames (another form of interactive fantasy).

9.  The Swamp of Sadness will apparently only kill beings that let sadness overtake them.  It's a good thing for Atreyu that walking through the swamp while crying over the death of his horse friend doesn't fall into the sadness category.

10. If you are late for your math test, ditch it.  If it's getting late and your father doesn't know your whereabouts, screw him.  You are reading a good book, dammit, and can't be bothered.


I could go on, but you get the hint.  The Neverending Story is a film mainly for young children, and I suppose if you are thinking of letting a child view it, or are wanting to watch a childhood favorite, I certainly would not scoff.  However...and I may be a tad coy with this statement...while I like fantasies well enough, is it too much to ask to make a fantasy less unrealistic?

 

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo