So I feel I need to make a confession before I begin my review of The Neverending Story. Before I watched the movie I took a completely unscientific survey of friends to see who had actually watched the film. I felt there would be some generational gap and sure enough there was a pretty definitive line between those who had seen the movie and those who had not. My friends and I who were born in the mid-70s and were children of the 80s all had fond memories of The Neverending Story and rated it as a classic. Those who were born in the mid-80s and were children of the 90s knew of the film but had never watched it themselves. Since the first two movies reviewed this month, Metropolis and Godzilla King of the Monsters, were ones that I had never seen before, I was excited to finally watch something that was familiar to me. I unintentionally made the last three movies which close out the month, The Neverending Story, Clerks and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, a walk down memory lane for myself. So, early Saturday morning, before anyone else in my house was awake, I fired up the laptop and was immersed into the world of Fantasia. And about twenty minutes in to the film I realized, I’ve never seen this movie before in my life! I mean, NEVER. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like part of my childhood had been stolen from me. Everyone I knew had seen this movie a countless number of times and I thought I was one of those people. I had been living a lie for decades and now the ugly truth was being exposed. I had to face the fact that I may actually have to revoke my claim of being a child of the 80s. At the very least I feel that I need to go back and inform everyone that I am a liar and I will spend a lifetime trying to repent for my sins. So here is a review of a guy almost in his 40s, watching a movie for the first time, even though he has always claimed to have seen it multiple times in his pre-teens and teens.
There were two things that stick with me from the first five minutes of the film. The first is the amazing 80s opening music with all of its synthesized glory. The theme song was sang by Limahl, who was the lead singer of the pop band Kajagoogoo and really locked me into that 80s mindset. This was important because this movie feels very 80s, from the clothes, to the almost graininess of the picture and of course, the puppets. Puppets were a corner stone of my childhood and just screams 1980. More on that later. So the music sets a great mood. The other thing is what Bastian’s dad had for breakfast. Did you notice? It was OJ and a raw egg blended up. What the heck?!?!?!?!?! Is that even legal anymore? What about the possibility of salmonella from the raw egg? I’ve never seen this offered at my local Robeks, so it can’t be a real thing. The real never ending story is how this guy can’t get off the toilet because he’s drinking uncooked chicken eggs every morning.
As we travel with Bastian on his way to school we encounter three bullies who chase him down an alley and throw him into a dumpster. This seems like a good time to mention that this town should be burned to the ground. How many adults are walking around as this kid is being chased and don’t intervene. Not only is this kid in a lala world because he’s trying to deal with the death of his mother, but he also might be dealing with some head trauma from all the thumping he is getting while being beat up by three kids as adults just step around them as they head off to their 9-5 desk job. And can we admit that Bastain isn’t right in the head. First, he runs away from the bullies, TWICE. I will concede that this is normal behavior. However, when he hides in the bookstore so he doesn’t get beat up, a strange booming voice comes out of nowhere and yells “Get Out!” So what does this kid do? He investigates the big scary voice. Take it from someone who was a scaredy cat as a kid (okay, maybe not just as a kid, but that’s not the point), I would have run out of that store as quick as I came in if I heard some ominous voice in the dark yell at me. So for whatever reason, Bastian investigates the voice, discovers the shop keep, learns about the book and then steals the book. Granted, the shop keep’s idea of keeping it safe and secure is by putting a newspaper over it. That guy deserves to get robbed, so I give Bastain a pass on this one.
The rest of the movie pretty much takes place in Fantasia and Bastain’s school. But not just anywhere in the school but in the attic. He’s up there hiding because he got to school late and would rather hang in the attic and hide his newly fenced book than show up late to class and take a math test. I can understand that mentality. What I don’t get is what kind of school this is with all of the weird stuff that they have stored away. I can see having a skeleton and a full chemistry set for science classes. But mounted stuffed animals, intricate pirate outfits, and a crocodile head, what gives?
Sure, you can try to rationalize it. Maybe they are props for a school play. Maybe the principle is an amateur taxidermist and stores some of his work at school. My theory is that these are all items used by the adults in town because they are all witches and wizards. They perform extravagant rituals with costumes and wolves heads on sticks to help appease the animal deities. Maybe that’s why they let the poor kid get his butt kicked earlier. All the adults are still recovering from their late night ayahuasca ceremony and are still half in the spirit world and half in the real world. Either way, this town is f’d up and Bastain has no real choice but to escape to a fantasy world in hopes of avoiding the true insanity which is his everyday life. Oooo, what if his mother was actually a human sacrifice in order to appease the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, which is used to prevent the end of the world which could happen every 52 years? That’s it! See how it works out. Bastain’s mom DID actually prevent the end of the world. But it wasn’t the real world his mom saved, it was that of Fantasia. Mind, lock and load, blown! Enough about that, let’s get away from the witchiness of these people and into the amazing world of Fantasia.
There is something that I think being a child of the 80s really helps with and that’s the acceptance of puppets. Growing up watching Sesame Street and the Muppet Show really made the idea of elaborate socks with eyes glued to them a rational part of my life. They are like another species of animal. That’s why, when they show up in a fantasy movie, they don’t seem so unrealistic. I’m not sure if younger generations will have the same ability to suspend reality, since they are more used to computer generated creatures in their movies. But the second the motley crew of adventures gather in the opening introduction to Fantasia, I was all in. Big rock guy, racing snail, oversized bat, I believed all of it. Nothing seemed abnormal at all about their interaction with the human actors. This stands true too for the later creatures we encounter. As I looked around the interweb to see if I could find out anything fun about these puppets I learned about the hidden characters in the Ivory Scene. The first time we are introduced to the Tower, we learn about the Nothing and the need to find Atreyu and how the princess is sick. There is a gathering of onlookers and as I learned from a dozen different sites, within that conclave are some very interesting attendees. It looks like Yoda, Chewbacca, C3PO, the Ewoks, ET, Mickey Mouse, and Gumby all came to see what the hubbub is about.
Once we start the adventure with Atreyu, things get gansta real quick. *spoiler* They kill the dang horse in the first 30 minutes of the film. Who does this? I will tell you who does this, Joss Whedon does this kind of crap. Mr. Whedon was 20 years old when this movie hit the theaters, so I have a hunch that this movie had some sort of profound impact on him, since he also seems to have a tendency to kill main characters in the beginning of his stories too. I’ve been hunting for the interweb for days and still can’t find prove but I will not rest until I have combed every subreddit, every message board and every Joss Whedon interview posted on YouTube. Because not only do they kill Atreyu’s best friend right off the bat, when he finally does find Morla the Ancient One, she’s a big schizophrenic pain in the butt. Yet, we get to meet Falco shortly after, which will make any child of the 80s smile. An image of this dragonlike creature flying through the sky with the words “Neverending stoooooryyyyy, ayyyayyyayyya” being sung in the background provides a pavlovian sense of comfort, even for those of us who actually never saw the movie in the first place.
Besides the puppets and 80s pop song, there is one other thing that makes this movie noticeably 80s. It’s the boobies. Only a 1980s flick could pull a PG rating with a bare breasted sphinx prominently placed throughout the film.
Despite all of my joking and snarky comments, I really enjoyed this movie. I can forgive some of the clunkiness, like Falco appearing out of nowhere to save Atreyu. The movie moved along well for me and with 20 minutes left in the movie I was thinking, “Man, they are really going to have to rush things in order to save Fantasia.” Then all of the sudden, BAM, everything is destroyed. 17 minutes to go and it’s over, Atreyu failed and all of that effort was for nothing. You’ve got to be kidding me! But wait, one last hope. Let’s go meet the Empress. Sweet. And that’s where my own story gets exciting, because I had to stop watching the movie at this point because it was time to start the weekend with my family. So I went two days before I could finally meet the Childlike Empress and see how the movie ends. And let me say, the actress who played the Childlike Empress was beyond outstanding. She was AMAZING. Her acting, her mannerism, her flection were all perfect. I totally believed she was an empress in a story, being read by a boy whose story was being viewed by others. “It’s a story, within a story about a story.” It made the ending, and therefore the entire movie, much more enjoyable for me.
Four and a half luckdragons out of five.
Great amazing film. There are some areas of the movie which seem jammed together and I understand that it has vast differences compared to the book, which I never knew existed until just now. I will watch this again and when my daughter gets older I will sit her down and be a little sad if she’s not interested in it because she’s used to computerized effects over fancy puppets. But until then, this song will be added to my playlist and played every time we go on a road trip.
What do you think? What am I missing, what do you agree with, what should I look at again? Please, leave comments below, and if you haven’t, subscribe to this blog on the right.
Until next time, go out and have some fun and be sure to come back next week when we review Clerks.