Logline: A boy explores a fantasy world using a mysterious book.
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, The Neverending Story is a great children’s film because it can appeal to both kids and adults. It is a film that is both happy and devastatingly sad; frightening and funny.
Like many people in their 20s and 30s, I grew up with The Neverending Story. Revisiting the film as an adult was even more enjoyable than I had anticipated. It is just as great, if not better, than when I was a kid. Part of the film’s transcendent power is that it does not hold back from scaring its target audience or dumbing down the plot.
The Neverending Story is beautifully shot and visually dazzling. Another world is created. The creatures and special effects are inspired and still look impressive today. The animatronics and puppetry are truly amazing and make this film a marvel to watch. The only thing that looks a little dated is the optical work, which can be seen in the flying sequences. There are so many iconic scenes in the film, such as the introduction of the rock biter, the conversation at Shell Mountain, and the destruction of Fantasia, which includes one of the best uses of the breaking of the fourth wall that I have ever seen. My favorite scene, in which Atreyu’s horse Artax dies in the Swamp of Sadness, is the film’s most devastating. As a grown man, this scene still gets me.
The child actors in the film are all strong particularly Noah Hathaway as Atreyu. Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder’s score is great and the title song is classic. With vocals by pop singer Limahl, the song was written by Keith Forsey, who would go on to write Don’t You Forget About Me, the title song for The Breakfast Club (1985).
More than thirty years after its release, The Neverending Story has lost none of its charm. It is a vastly underrated film that still has not been given the recognition that it deserves. It is a film about children and their ability to imagine a fantastic world in which they can become completely immersed.
Rating (out of ****): ***1/2