Here's a cumbersome - not to mention redundant - title for you: "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter."
Yet, it seems appropriate since it maintains the "reading is good" message and does pick up where the first film left off . . . more or less.Young Bastian, who had to learn to face neighborhood bullies in the first film, this time must overcome the fear of the high-dive if he wants to make his school's swim
MOVIE team. And once again he wanders into Koreander's bookstore looking for help.
He notices "The NeverEnding Story" but notes that he's already read it. Koreander tells him, however, that the book's story is ever-changing. So he runs off with it again and this time instead of just reading about the perils of Fantasia and young warrior Atreyu, Bastian finds himself inside the story as a full-blown participant.
"Part II" is even more "Wizard of Oz"-ish than the first film, with a nasty villain named Xayide conning Bastian into making wishes, each one robbing him of a memory. Her plan is to essentially erase Fantasia and its inhabitants with a creeping emptiness, a variation on the first film's theme of The Nothing eliminating Fantasia - and human imagination and warmth in general. (Do you suppose this is an intentional metaphor for modern-day Hollywood?)
And there is a parallel subplot about Bastian's father bonding with his son through the printed page.
Wise old furry flying "luckdragon" Falkor and the Rock Biter return, the latter's young son being just one of several new creatures. Others include Nimbly the human-sized bird, a mound of talking mud called Mudwart and three-faced assistant villain Tri-Face.
The special effects, set design and costumes are first-rate and the story, despite looking at times more like a remake than a sequel, is well-structured. But George Miller (the Australian director of "The Man from Snowy River," not the Australian director of the "Mad Max" flicks) occasionally allows the story to plod along when it needs some zip and lets the slapstick become far too broad - more Three Stooges than Buster Keaton. The result, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing, is that while "Part I" was good family fare, "Part II" seems designed more exclusively as children's fare.
Furthermore, the cast has changed (except for the one-scene Koreander, still played by Thomas Hill), and most of the replacements - Jonathan Brandis as Bastian, Kenny Morrison as Atreyu, John Wesley Shipp (currently playing TV's "The Flash") as Bastian's father - while adequate, tend to overplay their hands and lack some of the charm of the original cast.
On the other hand, Clarrissa Burt as Xayide and Martin Umbach as Nimbly are delightful as chief villain and her reluctant aide. (The film's Utah connection, Alexandra Johnes, who was quite good in "Zelly and Me" last year, has very little to do here as the Childlike empress.)
Despite these drawbacks, however, kids should enjoy "The NeverEnding Story II," rated PG for some violence.
- "BOX-OFFICE BUNNY," the first theatrical Bugs Bunny short to come along in 26 years, precedes "The NeverEnding Story II," and appropriately enough is a lampoon of movie theaters.
Bugs finds his rabbit hole covered with a new 100-screen multiplex and pops up into an auditorium. When theater manager Elmer Fudd realizes Bugs has entered without paying, a chase ensues. Daffy Duck also joins the fun after sneaking in.
Their feet stick to the floor, they deal with oversized concessions and eventually pull a stunt akin to the Italian comedy "The Icicle Thief," Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and Buster Keaton's "Sherlock Jr.," as Elmer and Daffy leap onto the screen and find themselves inside a movie.
Though it has its moments, "Box-Office Bunny" is somewhat lacking in the zany, free-for-all spirit of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons of yesteryear. And it doesn't help that the only classical animation seems to be the three characters themselves; everything else is merely a painted backdrop.
The desire to revive theatrical animated shorts must be applauded, but in practice this Bugs Bunny cartoon pales a bit in comparison to that other rabbit - the one working for Disney and Spielberg.