Review: Flight of the Navigator / Cert: U / Director: Randall Kleiser / Screenplay: Michael Burton, Matt MacManus / Starring: Joey Kramer, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff de Young, Sarah Jessica Parker, Paul Reubens (voice) / Release Date: November 19th
Disney’s 1986 kid’s sci-fi romp Flight of the Navigator is one of those 1980s movies which just fell through the cracks and, unlike better-remembered movies from the same era such as Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and especially E.T., it never managed to gain the iconic status it was clearly aiming for.
Viewing it now on shiny Blu-ray over twenty-five years later it’s really not hard to see why. This is a film that wants to be E.T. so much it hurts; it borrows the basic storyline of Spielberg’s family favourite - kid befriends benevolent alien intelligence - but doesn’t really have anything new to add to it and with no real sense of jeopardy and nothing very exciting happening, it just passes by in a blur of affable pleasantness, never making much of an impact.
Slightly whiny 12 year-old David Freeman (Kramer) finds himself inexplicably transported from his Florida home in 1978 to 1986 where he’s quickly experimented on to find out why he hasn’t aged. Meanwhile a sleek, impenetrable extra-terrestrial spacecraft has crashed nearby and soon David is communicating with it telepathically. A handy service robot takes him to the captured ship and once aboard he makes the acquaintance of a mechanical artificial intelligence which he nicknames Max. David becomes ‘the navigator’ and soon the ship is bursting free of its confines and racing across the world to the befuddlement of NASA bigwigs who are trying to track it down and bring it back.
That’s about it. It’s an easy-going, charming little tale but it’s not really very exciting and never really amounts to much. David never seems to be in any real danger, the ‘alien intelligence’ Max (voiced by Paul Reubens) quickly becomes harmless comic relief and ultimately the film is most memorable for Alan Silvestri’s catchy but painfully-dated synthesiser score, the ground-breaking early CGI effects sequences (which still stand up well today), a few cute wire-operated alien puppets and an early appearance from Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker. Flight of the Navigator has its moments, it’s an interesting and well-intentioned curio but despite its visual ambition and a few neat SF concepts it never quite takes off.
Extras: Director commentary.