Flight Of The Navigator is a Spielbergian 1980s science fiction movie, which offers-up enough original ideas (and special effects) to make it worth seeking out. Grease director Randal Kleiser’s 1986 film follows the family movie template to a ‘T’, delivering some neat visual moments and an assured central performance from Joey Cramer.
Cramer plays David Freeman, a 12-year old who goes into the woods one night in 1978 only to reappear eight years later, without having aged a day. To David, the passage of time seemed like mere minutes, however the life of his parents (Cliff DeYoung and Veronica Cartwright) has been turned upside down and David has been missing, presumed dead. Soon the military and NASA are probing him, but a mysterious spaceship and a robot called Max (an uncredited Paul Reubens) take him on an adventure of a lifetime.
The Harry Potter movies changed the landscape for family films, upping the action content and the special effects quota. Today Flight Of The Navigator looks rather quaint, but its special effects hold up well (it features some very early CGI) and there’s an innocence to the whole thing that makes it feel refreshing in this very cynical age of franchise movie making.
There’s more than a hint of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and even John Carpenter’s Starman on display and while it might not be as good as those movies, Kleiser’s film does deliver on spectacle and heart.
Flight Of The Navigator wasn’t a huge hit on its initial release, but it has attained cult status over the years. It might work best for those who saw it when they were young, but you can’t deny it’s a fun movie with some exciting moments.
Second Sight Films is giving Flight Of The Navigator the blu-ray release it deserves. The disc comes with interviews with the film’s cast, director Randal Kleiser, commentaries and behind-the-scenes goodies. These extras go into great detail about the film’s preproduction and post-production, giving some excellent insight into how the film came together. Brilliant.