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The Neverending Story III is...well, never ending. It's also a contradiction in terms. It's a movie that genuflects to the magic of books yet is overloaded with special effects (all the better to distract from the storyline) and the sort of rapid cuttingthat assumes little moppets can't be trusted to concentrate for more than, say, 60 seconds at a stretch. As a defence of its own argument for reading more - The Neverending Story III makes a great prosecution.

Actually, maybe this isn't a contradiction. Maybe it's a condundrum. The infinitely more sincere The Pagemaster falls right into the same trap, taking famous characters from the wonderful world of books (Mr Hyde, Moby Dick, Long John Silver) and reducin g them to cartoons: come alive, you're in the post-literate generation. How books are supposed to compete with the more immediate pleasures afforded by cinema - the expectations created are vast - isn't explored: how does an art best experienced as a grou p activity sell so solitary a delight as reading? Employing animation, computer graphics and little robot beasties, the medium overwhelms it's message - and then some.

Of course, we're not meant to be bothered about such distinctions any more: books, machines, cassettes, CD-Rom. Still, filing out from The Neverending Story III, I couldn't help experiencing a pang when my godchild asked not for books, but for the merchandising. Was there a T-shirt, a toy, a video game? I sighed and said yes, probably, but one day she'd really have to learn to read and write so she could at least start signing the cheques.