“The NeverEnding Story”
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Bastian is a troubled boy who has lost his mother, is struggling to connect with his father, and is being bullied at school. One morning, while running away from some bullies, he hides in a book store and discovers a book called “The NeverEnding Story”, which the proprietor insists isn’t safe. Bastian takes the book anyway and goes to school, where he hides in the attic to avoid a math test. There, he reads the book and is drawn into the land of Fantasia where he discovers that sometimes an ordinary boy is the hero that is needed.
This German made film is a wrenching story about loss, hope, and rediscovering dreams. As usual, I am not going to address the source material, the book “The NeverEnding Story” by Michael Ende. Books and movies are completely different interpretations and formats.
The thing about this story is, if for whatever reason, you cannot connect to your inner child, you may not enjoy this movie as much. There are very few adult characters, most of whom dismiss the children as not viable hero material or reminding them to keep their head out of the clouds. Even the adults who do appear to take the the children as equal are tiny. This movie really emphasizes how each little person and piece, especially the little things that often are overlooked, are so very important.
Noah Hathaway, as our adventure hero, Atreyu, carries the film very well with his strong presence and solid performance. Barrett Oliver, as Bastian, our quiet hero, does a good job of drawing the viewer in to feel the loneliness and disconnection that the loss of Bastian’s mother has left in his life and relationships. The supporting cast does a great job. Especially I enjoyed the performances by Sidney Bromley, as Engywook, and Patricia Hayes, as Urgl, the charismatic and unforgettable gnome couple who care for Atreyu.
It is true that the effects are dated, but frankly, I’d rather see dated animatronics and practical effects than shoddy CGI. They still successfully get the job done in a not entirely unpleasant way. And the title song, preformed by Limahl, front man for Kajagoogoo, is light and catchy and will stick in your head on loop.
My only real bitch about the story itself is that they don’t come back to readdress the relationship between Bastian and his dad and how his adventure in Fantasia has affected it. The movie was 104 minutes long and could have benefited from another 10 minutes to wrap up that plot point. Especially since the kid effectively disappeared without anyone knowing where he was overnight as he hid in the attic at school reading. As a parent, that burns my bacon.
I gave this movie 4 cups of cocoa because the story, if not the effects, have held up so well and still touches my inner dreamer.