2018’s Life After Flash is an exceptional documentary from director Lisa Downs which charts the rise, fall and resurgence of Sam J. Jones, the star of the ’80s cult adventure Flash Gordon. Downs’ film looked at how Jones dealt with his fame, how things went off the rails and ultimately how he made a comeback following his role opposite Mark Wahlberg in Ted.
Now Downs has turned her attention to another beloved ’80s film and its star with Life After The Navigator. The film in question is Randal Kleiser’s Flight Of The Navigator and this time around Downs focuses on Joey Cramer, the troubled former child star of the 1986 Disney film.
In Flight Of The Navigator 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 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 (voiced by an uncredited Paul Reubens) take him on an adventure of a lifetime.
Much of the feature length documentary looks at the making of the sci-fi adventure in great detail, with new interviews with Kleiser and many of the film’s co-stars (Cliff De Young, Veronica Cartwright and Howard Hesseman) and assorted crew members. However, the main focus of the film is Joey Cramer – and we catch-up with the former child actor to discover how he has struggled with drug addiction since the release of the film in 1986.
The genius of Downs as a filmmaker is that she never makes any of the details of Cramer’s life seem salacious. She knows how to let Cramer talk about his addiction and time in jail in an honest and open way. You can’t help but feel sorry for him and at times you can see the wide-eyed boy lurking beneath the tired eyes of the 47 year-old man.
Much like Life After Flash, Life After The Navigator is an emotional journey of hope and redemption. It needs on a high note and you feel glad that Joey Cramer has been able to finally get his life on track. Life After The Navigator ends with the former child star taking the tentative steps on the new leg of his journey, but you know that the road will be a long one. Life after anything isn’t easy.
Lisa Downs has discovered a brilliantly unique angle on how to craft excellent documentaries focusing on classic films – and I can’t wait to see what she does when she turns her attention to The NeverEnding Story and Noah Hathaway in Life After Atreyu.
Life After The Navigator can be purchased now on Region Free Blu-ray from www.lifeafterthenavigator.com It will be available worldwide on Amazon rental/premium from 9 December 2020 and from Amazon Prime and other platforms from 1 February 2021.