FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, 1986
Starring: Joey Cramer, Paul Reubens, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff De Young, Sarah Jessica Parker, Howard Hesseman, Robert Small
After a mystifying disappearance aboard a spectacular, futuristic spacecraft, David Freeman returns to earth possessing vast, undiscovered knowledge about the farthest reaches of the universe. With these sudden navigational powers, David is able to take the fantastic flying machine anywhere he desires
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Having watching this movie on what seems like a hundred occasions when I was biting ankles, this relatively short but hugely enjoyable movie was visited once more recently by yours truly to see if it was good as I remember it. To be honest, it met all expectations and was actually better.
David (Cramer) lives in Florida with his affluent parents Helen (Cartwright) and Bill along with annoying eight-year old brother Jeff. His angsts are just the same as any other boy approaching adolescence: dealing with his sibling who obviously annoys him and trying to talk to the girl he holds dear to his heart. Asked one evening to pick Jeff up from a neighbour’s home, David sets out on foot but accidentally falls down a ravine. And it is from this apparent tranquil point in time which takes this story in a whole new direction.
Awakening what seems like moments later, David returns to the family home but finds strangers to be living there. Heading towards the police station, the officers discover that David disappeared in 1978, which is eight years before this encounter. Having not aged at all since that night, David is taken to the new family home, where he discovers his parents brows have become furrowed, their hair turned grey and his brother Jeff no longer a brat anymore but a smart-looking teenager. To say people are bemused is a contradiction of the truth, and soon people are scratching their heads as to what actually happened. Even more so are NASA, who captured a flying saucer not far away from David’s home and even more intrigued about the etchings which David’s brain has created; a vessel which David knows no apparent knowledge of. What the hell could the connection be?
To a bright eyed five year old, this was the ideal movie for myself. Flying saucers have always intrigued me since reading about The Roswell Incident in 1947 as well as seeing some of the blighters myself on several occasions, I was intrigued to watch this movie once more and found that, at my mid-twenties age, still enjoyed it immensely. The most important character of the movie is David due to the immense screen time he has in this relatively short movie of 85 minutes, and here he does pretty damn good for the age which Joey actually was. I admit that there are certain moments in the film which indicate his youthful age, but on the whole this is one fine performance from an actor who could have been such a star. It is worth noting that after the release of this movie Joey didn’t really act that much which, to us the cinephile’s of the world, is our loss.
Veronica Cartwright plays an important role here too. Although her screen time is not as substantial as Joey’s, her ability is shown at its best when you witness the wide range of emotions that are there for all to see. Losing a child for any length of time is not exactly a pleasant experience, and here Veronica does awfully well to portray such emotions. But, just like the crew of a ship, they need a captain and in movies that role is given to a director. And my, how Randal Kleiser does a fine job.
Francois Truffaut mentioned that you should make a movie with kids, and here “Flight of the Navigator” is his example of that. Having worked with teenage characters before in “Grease”, his direction of Joey is quite something as are the aerial shots of the flying saucer. These types of shots use what I call “The Dam Busters” effect, where we see the pilot inside said ship and then the action happening just outside the window where we see the pilot in the same shot as well. The same effect was used throughout the “Star Wars” movies, and here it is done with much success. You could honestly believe that what we are witnessing are shots of an actual flying saucer. Okay, I admit that these effects are not quite what we see in contemporary Hollywood movies but for its mid-1980’s release date they are pretty damn impressive.
Not every adored childhood movie has always been so kind upon watching it years later, but this movie was not like this. An escapist movie to say the least which I reckon modern-day youthful audiences could love just like I did all those years ago.