As this is my first official blog for CHUD, I suppose I should get the standard introduction out of the way:
I’m Donnie Sturges. I go by Don S. in the forums. And I still like The Neverending Story, The Goonies, and The Monster Squad.
I mention this because Devin just did a movie review recently as part of CHUD’s “Movie of the Day” for The Neverending Story. He made it clear that this movie isn’t very good. After reading through (and even responding on my own) in the associated thread for the article, it was apparent that a lot of other people felt the same way. Sure, there were a couple of Chewers defending the film (I was one of them), but over all the response was equally negative. And to be fair, I will admit that Devin’s opinions on The Neverending Story are quite valid. I just re-watched the movie myself on Blu last week and after playing it over in my head with the “Devin Filter” on, I realized that he is correct – the movie isn’t that great. It’s visually stimulating, but it appears to be nothing more than disconnected scenes with whiny protagonists.
Yet I still love the film. But why?
Most likely for the same reason that I still like The Goonies and The Monster Squad. But, it would be too easy and simple to lay the blame at “nostalgia”. I think this word gets used and abused too often in regards to older films that many of us grew up with and still enjoy, especially if it’s a film that – in reality – is a steaming pile of crap. Certainly Devin and Nick both have an unflattering opinion of using nostalgia to defend why someone likes a film that, for all intents and purposes, is simply not good. But, I believe it really goes much deeper than that (at least, it does for me). Unfortunately, most of your average moviegoers don’t really delve much deeper into the “why” of it beyond the standard “Because I grew up with it,” or “Because I really like it as a kid.”
Devin said recently in his “Advocate” about the upcoming film Selma that “…movies matter. They matter on a personal level – great films impact the viewer and change them, even in ways the viewer doesn’t even notice. Cinema is an invasive art form, one that gets right inside of you..” It’s in this explanation that I think lies the real reason why seemingly empty fluff like The Neverending Story and The Goonies remains endearing to some of us even after we grow up. I’ll use my own experience as an example:
For me, all three of the afore-mentioned movies came out right around the same time in my life. From the time I was ten until I was sixteen I lived in a trailer park with my parents, my younger brother, and my younger sister. We weren’t very well off financially. One of the drawbacks to that lifestyle was that I hardly ever got to go to the movies. Luckily for me, home video was starting to cut a wide swath across society so that even us poor folk could watch movies. Between that and the “free” HBO my dad was able to finagle out of our cable box, I was still able to see a steady stream of films in my youth. Three flicks that were on heavy rotation were The Neverending Story, The Goonies, and The Monster Squad.
The reason? Pure escapism. Here I was, a trailer park kid in a small town in Northwestern PA. Looked down on in junior and senior high school by my peers, couldn’t really go anywhere that wasn’t on my own shabby bike. Didn’t have too many toys. Sometimes we wondered where our next meal was coming from. I had maybe three friends. What did those three movies and others like them provide for me? A world to retreat into where kids my age were doing extraordinary things that mattered. And with my only other asset being a healthy imagination, those films helped me to aspire to something greater for myself.
But they also did something more. Those movies resonated with me. They inspired me to become something better than what I felt I was. They helped me move beyond living in a trailer park and find a better life for myself. Those movies mattered to me on a personal level. And just because those films only had such a profound affect on me when I was a child, it doesn’t mean I should disregard them now as an adult. I wouldn’t be the adult I am today if it wasn’t for the experiences, triumphs, and failures I went through as a child. They are just as important as anything I have to face in my adult life. They may be part of the reason I don’t still live in a small town, pumping gas for a living with a homely-looking wife and four children on welfare.
So sure – I’ll admit none of those movies are great films. They are plagued with plot holes, horrible acting, bad direction, and bland pacing. But in spite of all that, each one of them still manage to accomplish one of the things that movies are designed to do – impact the viewer and change them. That’s the effect they had on me.
That is why, despite their flaws, I still love each one of them. It’s not simple “nostalgia”. Those movies did their job. They mattered.