The title is a lie
The NeverEnding Story (Die Unendliche Geschichte) (1984): 4 out of 10: The title is a lie. The movie ends after one hour and forty-five minutes. I was glad it was over.
You reach a certain age where you let go of childhood things and you also wonder if the song “Rainbow Connection” is really about schizophrenia. If you have reached this point in your life, I would avoid The NeverEnding Story.
The Good: During the early eighties there was a rash of strange puppet-oriented fantasy epics for children (Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal ext). The NeverEnding Story is cut from this cloth.
There is a lot of good in this film from amazing characters to a real sense of adventure. The NeverEnding Story is divided into a real-world side with one kid and the fantasy world with a completely different kid. I would have loved a straightforward story in the fantasy world. I found most of the creatures and characters in it exciting and easy to develop an emotional attachment to, as supposed to the “real world” people in this film.
Here is another children’s film from the early eighties with complete out of left field animated nudity. I am not against this per se, but I have always found it both strange and amusing that the early to mid-eighties kid’s films always seemed chock full of nudity and darkness where one would not expect such things. (The less said about David Bowie’s pants in Labyrinth the better)
The Bad: While the fantasy section of The NeverEnding Story holds its own, the real world section needs to die in a fire. Our main character in the real world is Bastian who is played by Barret Oliver. I don’t like the character of Bastian. First of all, he whines incessantly. Besides the whining, Bastian also screams and whoops like a developmentally disabled eight-year-old. Oh, and he has a big scene where he is supposed to shout a name out the window. Bastian does it so unintelligibly that they were unable to put in what he said in the closed captioning. His scenes overall are insufferable and only get worse as the film goes on.
Now I am a sucker for stories about young boys with dead mothers (See that Bruce Willis vehicle The Kid), but thanks to Bastian’s histrionics The NeverEnding Story can’t even get that tearjerking trope right.
Now in all fairness, our main character in the Fantasy world Atreyu played by Noah Hathaway also gets his whine on a little too much for comfort. Though he is practically stoic compared to his real-world counterpart.
The Ugly: The ending. I am trying to put into words how much goodwill drained out of this film in the last ten minutes. I am pretty sure all of it.
Have you been fast asleep And have you heard voices, I’ve heard them calling my name, Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors, The voice might be one and the same.
Yeah, the real world protagonist goes full Birdman at the end. Are we supposed to cheer his clear break from reality?
In Conclusion: Some nice concepts, characters, and a well realized fantasy world are lost in a movie that insists on focusing on a real-world main character who is like nails on a chalkboard and whose ending counteracts everything that came before it.