The Neverending Story is a framework piece, with the overarching story about young Bastian, a bullied boy, mourning the death of his mother, who obtains a fantasy book, The Neverending Story, which not only immediately captures his imagination but also draws him in, literally. The story-within-the-story is a quest by young Atreau who must find a cure for the young Empress so that she can save their land of Fantasia from the Nothing, which is swallowing and obliterating it. After travelling 10,000 miles with the help of some gnomes and Falcor the luckdragon, all to no avail in the end, Atreau and the Empress must call upon Bastian to help save them.
The creature effects are pretty rudimentary, especially when compared to similar films like The Dark Crystal. But I liked the creatures - I love practical effects and am willing to forgive a lot. But this movie is sooooooooooo sloooooooooow, even at only 90 minutes long. The creatures talk slowly, there are pointless scenes and there are an awful lot of gazing off into the distance and/or moving through space with nothing happening shots. Slow. The other thing I struggled with was how bad the child actors were. I can't really fault the Empress as she didn't get a lot to do. But Atreau is pretty awful and any time he was called upon to express any kind of intense emotion, he shouted. There was a lot of shouting.
I suspect that if I'd seen this movie as a little kid, I would have liked it a lot. Seeing The Neverending Story as an adult, however, didn't do the movie any favors. Next time I have a craving for early 80s fantasy with lots of creatures, I'm going for The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth or Time Bandits.