The Neverending Story is one of those childhood films that people either despise or adore. There seems to be very little middle ground. The overly complicated magical plot and very real threat of extinction always made it interesting to me, as was the fact that the entire film essentially took place inside of a book, much like The Princess Bride.
The basic plot is easy enough: a young boy named Bastian escapes his dismal life when he steals a book and becomes engrossed in the magical world of Fantasia. The inhabitants of Fantasia are being threatened by a dark power called the Nothing, and the Empress is in jeopardy, as she is the very life force of Fantasia. In fairly standard fantasy fashion, a warrior named Atreyu is called in to find salvation for Fantasia. As Bastian follows along, the lines between the fantasy and the real world become blurred, and he becomes less certain of his own involvement in the quest to save Fantasia.
Though there may or may not be a Neverending Story film in the works (it's been rumored for a few years), I think this series is ready for a reboot. With the advances in graphics and technology, the film could look spectacular and less hokey than it did in 1984. More interesting than the mechanics of the film is the acting component, and so here are the picks for recasting The Neverending Story.
Atreyu is the main character within the fantasy story, even as Bastian is the protagonist from the real world. Atreyu must journey across Fantasia looking for the answer for his dying world. The Twilight hype surrounding Taylor Lautner could bring fans into the theater, and though we haven't seen much else from the young actor, this could be a wonderful opportunity for him to take a completely different route. Atreyu is described as having green skin in the books, but there's no need to cover up that gorgeous skin. With Lautner's good looks and brawn, he might make the perfect warrior to save Fantasia. If Lautner is unavailable, then Joe Jonas should step up and make the transition from singing to world-saving. The Jonas Brothers travel in a pack; if we can separate one out it might end up being exactly right for the film.
Falkor the Luck Dragon is the character that most terrified children. Falkor is the dog-like dragon that flew around with Bastian or Atreyu on his back. Selecting a voice actor that is recognizable but not distractingly distinctive is difficult, but I'm going to go with the strong and unique brogue of Gerard Butler, who's already proven his voice-acting chops with this year's How To Train Your Dragon. Falkor has haunted the dreams of children long enough, hopefully he can be redeemed by the sultry Scottish tones of Butler.
The Childlike Empress is the ruler and physical manifestation of Fantasia, and plays an important role in maintaining peace and order. The Empress is pale and lovely, and without a doubt should be played by Julia Roberts' niece, Emma Roberts. There's something regal in the way she carries herself, and her dark hair and pale glow would lend itself well to this important character. If Roberts is unavailable, then Camilla Belle fits the bill quite nicely with her similar good looks and delicate features. The Empress should exude quiet grace, and both young ladies seem capable of imperial charm.
Bastian is the key to the entire film, a young boy who I remember being somewhere between eight and 12. Bastian should be sweet but unruly, thoughtful but able to play cruel and insensitive as well. The ever-present Freddie Highmore may be a bit old for the role, but he's adorable enough that he can play younger than his true age of 18. Another good choice might be Callan McAuliffe, the young Australian actor who recently starred in Flipped. Either of these boys could take the lead admirably, though Highmore might be a bigger name. While there are any number of teen girl actors to take the lead in film, it's a bit more difficult to pinpoint a major male tween talent. Of course, if we're really thinking about who should portray Bastian, the choice is obvious: Justin Bieber. The frenetic fan base would make the film a smash hit, and perhaps Bieber could record a new cover of the eponymous theme song.
Here's hoping that we can raise enough interest to push the film through into production. Give the people what they want: Bieber-related '80s remakes.