I visited family in Michigan this past week, something I haven’t been able to do for roughly 10 years. I thought I would post a sort of photo journal of my trip, but when I got home and looked through the photos I’d taken, they weren’t so hot. I’d taken them all when everyone else was asleep already and I was still up, on west coast time, or else when I was walking or driving around alone, so they are self-portraits of me standing in front of rural things, or of a crocus growing on the side of my grandparents’ house … the inside of my Aunt Jenny’s closet … a shelf of old spray paint cans with a red high heel in the foreground, from the basement, and the like. I didn’t take any photos of my family because it didn’t even occur to me, and would have seemed abrupt to stop a conversation with them to ask, “Oh yeah, can I take a photo of you?”
Instead of this bad Michigan photo journal idea of mine, I am instead writing a review of the god-awful horror show that is The Never-Ending Story, a morose kid’s movie from 1984 that those of you morose adults in your 30s may be very, very familiar with, as I myself am. A lot of girls who turned into feminist punks, like myself, and who are in their early thirties, seem to have several favorite childhood things in common: Punky Brewster, Jem and the Holograms, Cyndi Lauper, and the Neverending Story. I rented Neverending Story from Netflix but it arrived while I was out of town, so I didn’t get to watch it with my son for the first go-around (we usually watch kid’s movies twice with him before sending them back to Netflix). So I just heard second-hand from my husband that my son didn’t care for the movie until the sweet, cool-looking dog-dragon Falcor showed up, and then we was all about it. “Aw, I love Falcor. What a classic movie,” I thought to myself.
Last night I decided to watch it with him. For some strange reason, though, I decided I didn’t want to traumatize him, so I ended up fast-forwarding through the first 20 or so minutes, during which time the protagonist, a sweet little bookworm kid named Sebastian, is emotionally neglected and criticized by his dad, thrown in the dumpster by bullies, gets to school and his teacher doesn’t notice he’s not in class, and then sneaks up to a dusty attic to read a book by himself. What the hell is this? Did Stanley Kubrick make this movie, with input from the ghost of Virginia Woolf and letters from prison from the incarcerated women of Charles Manson’s cult, plus a little help from Marilyn Manson? Seriously, this is such a sad glimpse of a lonely kid’s life. It reminds me of when I was a kid and playing with friends and one of us would see the Stand by Me VHS in our parents’ collection. “Hey dad, what’s this movie? It has kids in it. Can we watch it?” “Oh, sorry son, you’re too young for that one. The kids are for the most part all clinically depressed, and they find the bloated corpse of a mentally challenged teenager at the end.” Parents should have warned us about the Neverending Story. “Sorry, kids, but this is a B-movie shot in an abandoned warehouse in Burbank. It’s about a lonely kid. There’s a crush-worthy Native American boy in it, and a cool dog-dragon, but otherwise, believe me, you don’t need to see this.” Instead, we all loved this movie, I guess because we were lonely weirdos with bullies and distant parents, just like Sebastian.
When Sebastian starts reading the book “Neverending Story,” we are transported to a fantasy world that is being destroyed by an unseen force called “The Nothing,” sometimes taking the shape of a killer wolf but usually just a breeze that, when it blows past, destroys every piece of land in its wake and gives all the fantasy creatures suicidal ideation. There is a beautiful child princess who rules over the land, and she is going to die if the Nothing continues. A brave kid named Atrayu is the only person who can stop The Nothing. Spoiler alert: early on, his beautiful, kind horse, who is his best friend, sinks into a quicksand that is a manifestation of the Nothing. Atrayu tries to pull his horse out and screams “Fight against the sadness! The Nothing is taking you! Please don’t die!” etcetra but the horse dies anyway. When this happened I started to weep and plead “Why the fuck did they put this in a kid’s movie? Why is the horse dying?” My two year old was sitting next to me, with his sweet warm head being rained on by my crazy-lady tears. I turned it off, and thus ends my film review.