Typical Amateur Internet Journalism involves finding something lame, then screaming and swearing about how lame it is for either 5,000 words or the ten-minute YouTube limit, whichever comes first. You get super-triple-bonus points if said lame thing also happens to be a thing your audience remembers from their childhood and they also agree it was lame, adding relatability to the humor. The process has bestowed success and popularity upon many, but I have to wonder how many times it can be done before people catch on and get tired of the formula.
When "Generation X" first became an entity, their existence was met with derision from the self-absorbed Baby Boomers who controlled the world: "How dare anything exist beyond me!" Their solution was not only to just name them "X" but stereotype them all as extremely cynical, sarcastic people. I never believed that, but now that the "X" men are gaining control, I've begun to see more articles in respected, profitable places that have a tone like this. I'm beginning to wonder. A merciless piece making fun of something is fine and funny for the Internet, but do you really want the entire journalistic media to become this mean and cold?
What's my point? My point is.......The Neverending Story III is garbage. GARBAGE.
I'd rather have a buffalo take a diarrhea dump in my ear than watch this again. I'd rather talk and talk as fast as I can with simplistic graphics sped up so fast you have to pause every five seconds and back up to figure out what the heck I just said than view this low-rent, direct-to-video disgrace one more time.
The original Neverending Story came out in 1984 and remains one of the finest flicks the 80's had to offer. I didn't see it until it came on television, though. When the sequel was released, I was old enough to see it on the big screen, but I remember it freaking me out. My mom thought I couldn't sleep that night because of the lumbering paper-mache crab monsters, but the fright actually came from the notion that an evil witch could steal every memory out of my head, one by one, until I became a thoughtless vegetable. Alzheimer's Disease scares me for the same reason.
Right after #2 came out #3 was announced, and I waited years for it to show up at the Funplex, but it never did. Over a decade later, I found out I'd been looking in the wrong place. Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia was released, but quietly onto video. "Uh-oh, is there a reason for that?" I thought. ....Yeah there was.
The box proudly proclaims "THIS HAS THE GUY FROM FREE WILLY IN IT!!" because it came to market shortly after that movie became a hit. It's obvious Jason James Richter filmed this before Free Willy, for it came out within the brief period where he had enough star power to eschew cheap video films. Despite what ABC Family would want you to believe, Hayden Panetierre did not film Bring it On: All or Nothing after Heroes either.
This quote-unquote movie opens up with sweeping early-CGI shots of Fantasia, Realm of All Human Imagination. Fantasia normally doesn't have a "CW" bug in the corner, but there's no way I'm paying to review this. You may recall from the first two movies that the existence of Fantasia is always threatened by the current level of childhood illiteracy. Reading was so uncool in 1984 that Fantasia disintegrated into asteroids and Bastian Bux, reader of the Neverending Tome, had to imagine it all back up again, much like Butters had to do in a completely different story.
Though the threat is usually the same, it is always given a different name. In the original it was "The Nothing." In this flick, it's "The Nasty." The Nasty? Why'd they think The Nasty was catchy? As we're about to find out, though, The Nasty isn't an imagination-destroying void. The Nasty is Jack Black.
More specifically he's the leader of a gang of bullies in leather jackets and 80's hairdos (we're in 1994) who call themselves "The Nasties." Bastian is now in high school, but he's still in the same position he was in Movie #1 (running from bullies) despite gaining so much courage from the Book. Why doesn't he just hop onto Falkor the Luck Dragon and scare the Nasties into jumping inside a garbage dumpster? Because Falkor isn't a dragon anymore, but some kind of dog....more on that later.
Bastian temporarily eludes "The Nasties" by ducking into the school library....where, conveniently, the bookstore owner from the first two films is now the librarian here. Did he bring his magical book with him? You bet, but he says it's "strictly a reference book only," meaning Bastian can't check it out. He could photocopy it at least. But he doesn't need Xeroxes right now, he needs an escape route. They'll never think to look for him in the book!
But before he does that, the movie has to explain exactly what his life situation has become since the second movie, so the first page he turns to is one that narrates his life, complete with video flashbacks. If the book's now about Bastian that would make it a biography, not a fantasy, but....I'm not gonna hurt my head over this. Book Narrator explains that Bastian's dad has finally remarried, to one of the worst-performing actresses I've ever seen, and she has a daughter who is now Basty's sister. They don't get along. Do you think they'll LEARN to get along by the end? Dunno.
We also see that Bastian has run into the Nasties at least one previous time, and the encounter resulted in his being locked into the boiler room -- until the janitor showed up as the Nasties were leaving and threatened their permanent record if they didn't let him go. "OH PLEASE, NOT MY PERMANENT RECORD! IT'S....PERMANENT!!" whimpers one of Jack Black's lackeys. Schools still pull this "permanent record" threat scam to get kids to behave, but the reality is, their profanity-stuffed YouTube and Facebook accounts are much more permanent and damaging than a folder that gets thrown out once they graduate are.
Once all the re-capping is over, Bastian runs into a closet, opens the book and wishes to be in Fantasia, at which point the cameraman zooms in and out on his torso at a fast blurring speed because they can't afford fancier effects than that. Once the zoom/blurring ends, only the book remains.
Bastian crash-lands in a Fantasian forest and comically steps on the home of a dwarf couple. They're supposed to be the dwarf couple that helped Atreyu in the first movie, but they weren't one inch tall then, and they remember Bastian from that adventure despite him being a DIFFERENT PERSON. Bastian also meets a completely new character while he's in this forest....a wisecracking, pop-culture-reference-slinging, absolute abomination of a talking tree. The tree's name is "Barky" and he clashes against the Cricket Magazine fantasy ambiance of the first two films completely.
I don't think the guy who wrote this even saw the first two. Atreyu is nowhere. The warrior hero who personified Fantasia so well is not in any part of this movie. Falkor is, but like I hinted earlier, his puppet has been given a bad remodeling job and he now resembles a stray mutt, not to mention his voice has been changed to Goofy's. Rock Biter's here too, as well as his annoying child, but Rock Biter Jr. was in movie #2 so I can't slight them for that. I CAN slight them for giving those guys a sequence where they hop on a rock motorcycle and drive through the Fantasian mountains singing "Born to be Wild."
I'm thinking now that it might have been a good thing Atreyu didn't appear. He might have been recast as Bob Saget.
Oh-oh, Jack Black finds the book and it doesn't take him long to figure out what's going on. The Nasties find a page with a woodcut of themselves on it that recants everything they've done over the last few days. "Hmm," says Jack Black with a sinister tone, "if Bastian can make anything happen in this book that he wants to" (which he CAN'T) "then we can use it to make things happen to HIM." Well, it works for Jack, but I don't know how. All of Fantasia begins erupting in lighting sound effects, strobe lights and wind machines, as Jack hovers over the book laughing. That's all he does, he's never specific. I still don't get this scene.
Bastian must get out of the book NOW to stop the Nasties (or run away from them again), but he can't get out because he "needs the book to do that" -- another example of the writer knowing nothing, because he's IN the freaking book so he can't take it WITH him any more than he can eat his own head. The only other option, the dwarves conclude, is the AURYN, the medallion that grants all wishes in the possession of the Childlike Empress. Or rather, they just call her the Empress now, because she's played by an older actress. This is one of the few changes I'm fine with. Childlike Empress was rather creepy, and she only got creepier after the Ramsey murder.
Next comes another scene I don't get: Empress observes that thanks to the influence of Jack Black, Fantasians everywhere are starting to act ruder to each other, and she comes to one conclusion: "We must summon Bastian!" And at the moment she's summoning him, he walks through her door. The last time we saw him he mentioned he was on his way, so was this just a concidence or did she really....urgh, what is the point of this? Why was it written that way?
He brought along Falkor, Annoying Rock Baby and Extremely Annoying Tree-Thing. And the dwarves. This posse turns out to be important because he can't get the Auryn to work and send him home. Y'know, despite using it so effortlessly in movie #2. Empress concludes they need more "Wish Power" and has everyone hold hands and wish at the same time. The camera does the same jerky zoom blur thing--and everyone except Empress goes back to Earth by mistake.
Bastian reappears in the library, and is about to wish the book out of the Nasties' hands when he suddenly hears the Empress's voice yelling for him to stop. She explains to Bastian via Remote Auryn that a "wish overload" transported them all to reality, in different individual parts of the country, and they would now have to be rounded back up. And no, he can't just wish for them to appear back in the room because....well, no reason was given.
Notice how, again, none of this makes sense. The real motive behind this scene was that it's much cheaper to find places to shoot in the real world than build your own fantasy sets. Now the subtitle's meaning, "Escape from Fantasia," makes sense...but little else does. I should also point out that in the "wish overload" scene, the male dwarf makes a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
They've made several pop jokes like that, yet when they get into the real world, they're still surprised by everything. Falkor mistakes an airplane for another dragon and tries to start a conversation with it. Barky wanders into a forest making wisecracks like "WHOA, lookit the trunk on THAT lady!" and "It's like a Greenpeace convention!" (???) Rock Biter Jr. winds up on top of Mount Rushmore and tries to eat George Washington's head.
If you care where the dwarves are, they wound up in Alaska, and they don't understand this strange world's weather at all. The male dwarf, however, makes a crack about the then-hole in the ozone layer, which he could not know about unless he DID know something about the world's weather. Or maybe he doesn't because the sun's UV rays heat things instead of cooling them. Then again, the dwarves get back to Bastian by sneaking inside a FedEx building and writing Bastian's address on a label, then mailing themselves there. IF THEY'VE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE HOW DO THEY KNOW HIS ADDRESS???
Meanwhile, Bastian's back at home NOT looking for his friends like the Empress commanded him to. His sister barges into his room to snipe at him some more, then notices the Auryn Bastian's got. Stupidly, Bastian rattled off the entire Fantasian history to his sister early in the film, probably to provide a recap for the audience. She may not fully believe him, but that shiny medallion's got her a little curious, and she's not the only one. The Nasties still have the book, and they've been using it to follow along remotely with Bastian's adventures from their evil neon-lit underground clubhouse hideout. When Sis mentions how the Auryn works again, they conclude they MUST get it from him.
Bastian re-finds Falkor and Rock Baby downtown at the Chinese New Year celebration, because it must be Chinese New Year (remember this, because another big contradiction is coming). It's here the Nasties make their first attempt to steal from Bastian, but are thwarted when Falkor (in the middle of the parade posing as one of those paper-mache dogs that sound like Goofy) roars at them once. They run off screaming. Follow them, you fools, they have your book! ...They don't follow them. Once again this movie makes no sense at all.
Falkor flies Bastian and Rock Biter Jr. home, then floats off to search for Tree and Dwarves. The most unbearable portion of the movie is up next and it's so cliche I don't think you really need the details. Just know this: Bastian has to hide the Rock Baby from his family, with wacky results. He even has to sleep with him, but they cut back to the tree again as soon as that starts up, thankfully. Yes, I even prefer the stupid tree to Bastian bonding with that annoying baby.
The next morning Bastian must get back to school and convince the baby not to follow him. This he succeeds at, but he runs into the Nasties again, who shake him upside down in a thorough effort to get the Auryn from him. Bastian doesn't have it this time, though...his sister does. Before she left for class, she swiped it from his room. And when she wishes her teacher would go away, the teacher walks out of the room and doesn't come back. That's proof enough for her -- she has infinite power!
And with that infinite power, what do you suppose she wants to do? Like any other stereotypical tween, she uses it to go shopping. And I don't mean she conjures up things or money to pay for things, she just goes shopping. Seriously, she could have anything in the world by wishing for it and the extent that she uses the Auryn is for brainwashing the employees at clothing shops to let her try on outfits. I want the witch with the Alzheimer's gumball machine back. Sis deserves it for this.
Bastian returns from school to find Barky with Junior. How'd Barky find him? By using the phone book. "I let my branches do the walking!" he cracks. (Reason to hang the writer #595.) The dwarves also arrive via FedEx one-day delivery. But no one can go back to Fantasia without the Auryn, and Sis is out at the mall being stupid with it. They'll have to go all the way out to the mall--in BROAD DAYLIGHT! ...Oh, wait, it's Halloween, so the freaks can walk out as themselves.
Or is it Chinese New Year? Or is it the first day of school, as was stated during Bastian's first appearance? How dumb do you have to be to write something like this?
Once they reach the mall, the film really loses it. See, everyone is being mean to each other, because "The Nasty" has spread beyond Fantasia and is infecting the real world. So everybody in the mall is running around like they're rabid, kicking down stacked boxes, throwing spaghetti at each other's heads, etc. Bastian's parents are at the mall too and start harping at Sis for stealing clothes (of course she deserves it, but the idea is they're being mean because they're polluted or something). To make matters worse, Jack Black figures out Sis has the Auryn and nabs it from her. Now JACK BLACK has infinite power! And he uses it to....do nothing, pretty much, except sit on his "throne" in his hideout and cackle while holding it.
The Nasty completely consumes Fantasia and the stupid rock family (minus Junior) starts bickering with each other. Empress has become a valley girl, prancing around while saying things like "This is so COOL!" and "So sue me!" The horror.
But the important thing about all this scary chaos is that it's made Bastian and his new sister bond closer together. They learned a valuable lesson! Now they can save the world through working TOGETHER!
They stomp inside the hideout and find Jack Black and friends cackling there, basking in their punkish evil. Bastian argues that the Nasties will gain nothing from destroying the world, as they have to live in it too. This is one of the only things Bastian has said in this movie that makes any sense, but Black is unfazed. Their dopey puppet friends are there as well, and manage to wrestle the Auryn away from Jack Nasty and toss it to Bastian. His sister also grabs the book. Black demands blood for that!
"Put down that Auryn and fight me like a MAN," he says, raising his dukes up.
Which he does. What??
Reading from the book, Sis says "Bastian easily beat the Nasties by whipping out his kung-fu karate moves!"
Which he does. What??
This idea is so idiotic that everyone in the room actually points it out. It doesn't stop Bastian from fulfilling the book's prophecy and fake-karate-kicking the Nasties into submission, though. This doesn't really beat them for good; what does is Falkor showing up and roaring at them a second time, causing them to run away again. How is that a permanent solution? It sure wasn't last time. Use more karate!
Nah, it's not over yet. Bastian looks in the book and discovers it's now telling the future instead of the recent past. Why? Just BECAUSE, that's why. And it's showing.....their parents breaking up! It's showing Rock Biter breaking up with his wife too! Wait, why should I care about the Rock Biters? I don't know, but Bastian accidentally calls them the "Rock Chewers" in this scene, to give you another idea of how much care went into the script. Also, as Rock Biter is packing a stone-carved suitcase to leave, he yells "FROM NOW ON....I'M A ROLLING ROCK!" Wow, beer plug.
Back at Bastian's house, his new mom is pulling one of the most unconvincing freakouts I've ever seen as his dad is packing his own suitcase. It mostly consists of her screaming "BAAAAARNEY! BAAAAAARNEY!!" into his face, which might be why he's leaving. Up until this point, the name of Bastian's father had never been revealed. Keep in mind, again, that this is 1994, and if there was EVER a bad time to name any character Barney, it was then.
Just as he's heading out the door to abandon his wife and children, the kids show up yelling "NO! NO! DON'T LEAVE!!" He suddenly changes his tune. He instantly learns to love again, spin around in a circle hugging his children, and have a happy fa-mi-ly. Storywise this is most likely because the effects of the Nasty are gone at that point. ...I think. Oh yeah, and the exact same thing happens with the Rock family, if you care to know.
The next morning, Bastian and Bastian's Sister skip happily to school arm in arm. They frolic down the hallway only to meet Jack Black and the Nasties--who are now the Niceties! They've become five stereotypical nerds instead! HAPPY DAYS FOR ALL! The pair jump up and high-five, then freeze in midair! Plus, the librarian warns "the story is not yet over." Thankfully, no one listens to him. In my book, Neverending Story III is only secondary to Batman and Robin in its ability to bring a beloved franchise to a screeching halt.
Actually, in a broader sense that's not the end. A 27-episode Canadian cartoon series was produced the following year, and I can't speak of its quality, or lack thereof, as I've never seen it. It DID have Barky in it, if that tells you anything.