The Neverending Story lives up to its title in the worst way possible with this third outing, a charmless, desperate reworking of the franchise that might just as well be subtitled Bastian Goes to High School. Clearly aimed at a generation of moppets with one finger on the fast-forward button, lame effort throws over the magical charm of the 1984 original and darker fantasy of the 1990 sequel for a semi-hip yarn patched together by a marketing committee.
Central character, Bastian (Jason James Richter), is now on the edge of puberty and moved home with his father. Dad’s new wife Jane (Tracey Ellis) is an eager-to-please happy homemaker with a sharp-tongued pubescent daughter, Nicole (Melody Kay). At school, Bastian is bullied by a bunch of senior punks called the Nasties.
Bastian takes refuge in the school library, coincidentally run by Mr Coreander (Freddie Jones, taking over Thomas Hill’s roll in the first two pix), the antiquarian bookseller. Bastian wishes himself back into the dream world of Fantasia, courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. But when the Nasties get a hold of the tome and start filling it with their own warped imagination, Fantasia starts to crumble. Fantasia’s child empress (now blossomed into the shapely Julie Cox) begs him to get the book back from the bad guys.
Showing every sign of lack of confidence in its original premise, this latest installment [from a screen story by Karin Howard] tries to have it all ways, thoroughly Americanizing the modern setting, stirring in a heap of hip, high school dialogue, and relegating the Fantasia sequences to little more than a collection of cuddly toys pitched somewhere between The Wizard of Oz and Return of the Jed i.
Helmer Peter Macdonald (Rambo III) does a pro job, and effects (supervised by Brit veteran Derek Meddings) are generally good, on a par with the earlier entries though not this time in widescreen.