The effects of this fairy-tale adventure sequel are in the low-to-medium-tech range: the setting, Fantasia, could easily be called The Land of Rear-Screen Projections and Bad Miniatures. The main threat to heroic Jonathan is a universal condition of malaise called the Emptiness, which sounds like a new nickname for Donald Trump.
Otherwise this film is a vigorous, involving, not-too-violent fantasy for children.
Australian George (The Man from Snowy River) Miller directed from a script by Karin (ABC Afterschool Specials) Howard. The cast is all new, though a few characters return from the '84 original. Bastian Bux, a boy who wanders into the pages of a storybook, is played by Brandis, 15. He runs into some of Bux's old buddies, such as the warrior Atreyu (Kenny Morrison, 16).
The most signal addition is Burt, a model turned actress. (Remember her in the Italian film Caruso Paskoski, Of Polish Origin?) She preens with gorgeous malevolence as the main proponent of the Emptiness, who wants to rid the universe of fairy tales.
This all turns out predictably. But if you don't want all involved to live you-know-how ever after, go next door and see if there isn't a nice slasher film playing there.
Neverending Story II is being shown along with the first new Bugs Bunny short in 26 years. Box Office Bunny. It pits Bugs against a 100-screen "cineminium" threatening his home. The only unhappy thing about it is that this is the first cartoon short where Bugs's voice is not that of the marvelous Mel Blanc, who died in 1989. (PG/G)