Flight of the Navigator (1986) / Sci Fi-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language
Running Time: 90 min.

Cast: Joey Cramer, Howard Hesseman, Cliff De Young, Veronica Cartwright, Matt Adler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Paul Mall (Paul Reubens, voice), Robert Small, Albie Whitaker
Director: Randal Kleiser
Screenplay: Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton, Matt MacManus
Review published July 28, 2004

In 1978, 12-year-old David (Cramer) is walking in the woods one day and falls in a ravine.  When he awakes, he finds himself in 1986, still the same age, while the family he once had is 8 years older.  Presumed dead all those years, the family is elated to find their boy alive, although the fact that he hasn't aged is an anomaly that bears investigating.  While being evaluated, David begins emitting images with his mind that directly correlate with a strange flying object currently being investigated by NASA.  From then on, David is taken in for further study by NASA, who want to extract what he knows from his mind, including some very detailed star maps.

Flight of the Navigator is a mid-80s Disney film that has its moments, but suffers from an overly simplistic plot and is lacking enough elements of interest to sustain a full-length feature.  It's also a very cheap looking production, with the only real money going to the spaceship set and special effects.  As a kids film, it may have a modest appeal, with a young protagonist, some scary (but not too scary) moments, and a cute final half hour dominated by the spaceship gone hip, voiced by Paul Mall (aka Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman)).

Shades of E.T. abound, somewhat "Twilight Zone"-ish, and a dash of Back to the Future, but what it lacks is the vision of Steven Spielberg.  As directed by Randal Kleiser (Grease, The Blue Lagoon), it's a dark and mostly stagnant film, and then the tone changes jarringly to a light adventure as it approaches the finale.  The flight scenes might offer some exhilarating escapism, but they feel more like an effort to pad a film that is already stretched out to the limits of its story's capacity.

With dated special effects, Flight of the Navigator is probably only of interest for nostalgia buffs looking to recapture a childhood memory, although it might still hold the interest of today's youngest viewers..  It also features a good performance by Cramer as the hero of the film, and a solid supporting cast.  Sadly, despite having three people contributing to the screenplay, there still wasn't enough imagination to keep this from running out of gas, resulting in 90 minutes of marginal entertainment.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo