WHEN: 8:09 am EST, August 17th, 2013
WHERE: The bedroom of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: DVD on a Dell Inspiron E1405
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Very happy to watch The NeverEnding Story for the 33rd time rather than Sleeper a second time. Paused at 8:57 am and resumed at 9:00 am.
The NeverEnding Story is a fantasy film geared towards kids. Despite its target audience, The NeverEnding Story doesn’t fall prey to the trap of juvenile humor, except for when it does. The NeverEnding Story has some serious issues with its humor. Maybe Wolfgang Petersen is a weirdo, maybe the humor is too European for me to understand, or maybe the “jokes” were shoehorned in to fit the qualifications for a “family film.” I’m leaning towards that last one.
Leave the physical humor to the professionals, Wolfgang.
The NeverEnding Story is a dark film. So why not just let it stay dark? Kids are resilient little creatures who can handle a film that actually talks to them like rational thinking people instead of mollycoddled dumplings with mush-brains. Children are awesome humans-in-training who should be exposed to films that don’t revolve around fart jokes. The NeverEnding Story suffers from bad, poorly executed humor because adults seem to think that kids can’t handle a serious film without some laughter to lighten the mood. A film needs a silly sidekick or a pile of shit to fall facefirst into so that parents can be reassured that their little ones won’t be traumatized by thinking too hard.
More traumatic than Artax’s death.
The very first thing that comes to mind is Rockbiter. He’s a bit of a dolt, oblivious to his massive size and any consequences to his actions. This makes him endearing without becoming too silly. Then he belches. Sure, he apologizes, but the damage has been done. The humor is awkwardly placed in a scene that is meant for exposition and building atmosphere. I’m fine and dandy with burp jokes; belch the alphabet, Annoying Sidekick. But for Rockbiter, that one action changes him from a lovable buffoon to a rude guest. Rockbiter’s indigestion feels so out of place that I suspect it resulted from a studio note rather than from Petersen. It breaks the tension of the scene to add nothing but crudeness.
The same thing goes for Morla. She explains that her copious sneezing is because she’s allergic to youth. I think not, O wisest one in Fantasia. More likely, her sneezing is to break up the utter depression of Artax drowning in the Swamps of Sadness. Covering myself in mucus doesn’t sound like the best way to handle grief.
Not phlegmatic. Plenty of phlegm, though.
As a side note, turtles can sneeze. I thought this was bullshit for the movie, but check out this adorable and hilarious video of a turtle sneezing. Morla’s sneezing, though? Unnecessary. It’s not even that funny. If anything, it reiterates how damned depressing Atreyu’s quest has become. His horse is dead, his arm is injured, a giant turtle won’t give him a straight answer to his questions, he has to travel 10,000 miles to maybe find a cure for the Empress, and he’s covered in snot. Nobody’s life sucks as much as his at this moment.
Your problems seem pretty small now, don’t they, Lex?
The NeverEnding Story does have humorous moments that work for the film. Engywook and Urgl skate the line of “this humor does not belong,” but they are a lovable, cantankerous married couple, so I can let it slide. They could have become caricatures (like in The NeverEnding Story III), but their banter feels familiar rather than forced. The humor is chuckle-worthy and doesn’t make me cringe in embarrassment. Even the stupid bat gets a pass as the soporific partner to the high-strung Night Hob. When the humor is subtle or dark, it fits into the film. Falkor assuring Atreyu that he doesn’t eat children is a disturbing joke, but it works in a world where Atreyu is being hunted down by a giant talking wolf.
Children can handle dark humor. Children can handle a serious film. The NeverEnding Story has humorous bits that don’t detract from the story or the atmosphere. But then there are moments when jokes are forced in, creating awkwardness and pulling the audience out of the film experience. I blame the studio execs. Marketing The NeverEnding Story to children means that dumbass adults in suits are going to make sure that children laugh at stupid shit to keep them interested in the film. How about just telling a good story? Sorry, I forgot that children are morons, so let’s not keep the bar high to encourage intellectual development. Hollywood is another reason I’m not going to have kids. Thanks for reminding me, The NeverEnding Story!