Grieving the death of his mother, unable to talk to his father, and taunted by his peers, young Bastian (Barrett Oliver) finds refuge from the storms of life in the world of novels. This is literally true one morning when he avoids a group of bullies by hiding in a bookstore.
Although the grumpy proprietor (Thomas Hill) tries to shoo him away, an antique volume on the old man's cluttered desk intrigues the avid reader. Taking advantage of a moment of distraction, Bastian decides to "borrow" the book despite the vendor's curious warnings about its magical powers.
Skipping class, the boy sneaks his treasure into the school's eerie attic, and cracks the pages of The Neverending Story where he is introduced to the mythical inhabitants of the endangered land of Fantasia. Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), a warrior about the same age as Bastian, is the doomed kingdom's only hope. Receiving his commission at the Empress's Ivory Tower, the hero embarks on a journey that will forced him to find inner confidence, summon unknown courage, and keep enough hope alive to prevent drowning in the "Swamps of Sadness." But as the story progresses it becomes apparent that fantasy and reality are somehow intertwined, and Bastian has begun a parallel quest.
Unfortunately, the story only skims many of these deeper themes, focusing instead on populating the film with numerous visually impressive characters. While most of them are endearing (such as the rock biter, luck dragon, and little elves), others look so bizarre that they may be disturbing to young viewers. Parents will also want to note the loss of a faithful animal, the depiction of a bloody battle with a wild beast, two talking stone sphinxes that display topless female nudity, and an endorsement for resorting to revenge.
Although too intense for little children and too juvenile for older teens, The Neverending Story's message of using literature to explore real life issues coupled with a discussion about the balance between a growing imagination and keeping one's feet an the ground, could make this movie more than just the ultimate in escape fiction for 'tweens.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
A grief stricken boy is forced to face his fears when he becomes involved in the storyline of a magical book, which contains some dramatic and thematic elements inappropriate for young children.
Character threatened, chased by bullies and forced into garbage dumpster. Skulls and bones seen several times in backdrop. Fantastical characters in story may confuse or frighten young viewers. Terrifying wolf beast seen periodically. Implied drowning of horse. Depictions of earthquakes, rocks falling, and debris flying through the air. Character’s arm wounded, some blood shown. Character zapped and killed by destructive laser beams emitted from statues. Gruesome burnt face shown. Gondola-like contraption hits ground, man spills out (no injury). Boy falls from great height, lands in water. Character mortally wounds beast during fight, blood shown.
Sexual Content: B-
Use of make-up has young female character looking older than her years. Boy’s chest occasionally revealed in low-cut tunic. Stone sphinx statues (human from waist up, animal from waist down) display topless female nudity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: B+
Magical potions used for healing purposes.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
Bastian is being bullied by classmates who steal his money and force him into a dumpster. What can a child do in such a situation? To find more information about appropriate ways to dealing with bullies, check out the many website resources that can be found by searching for “Bullies” on Google.com
While the movie’s storybook section makes a strong statement regarding the importance of a healthy imagination, Bastian’s father criticizes his son for not facing reality and responsibility. Do you think it is important to find a balance between these two worlds?
To find other worlds of pure imagination, see our review of Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, Fantasia 2000, or Jumanji. For stories of children coming to terms with life and bullies, try Harriet The Spy, or Disney’s The Kid.
Home Video Notes
Release Date: 7 October 2014
The NeverEnding Story releases to home video in a 30th Anniversary Edition on October 7, 2014.
Home Video Notes:The NeverEnding Story
Release Date: September 4, 2001
- Production notes
- Theatrical trailer