Tag Archives: Flight of the Navigator

Disney’s Flight Of The Navigator

I feel like live action Disney stuff from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s is underrated. The animated ventures always get minted into classics and go platinum while awesome entries like Flight Of The Navigator get lost and relegated to hidden gem territory after awhile. This is a smart, funny, charming, invigorating and refreshingly eerie little SciFi that doesn’t talk down to its young audience or wade into sap.

In 1978 young David (Joey Cramer) disappears walking through the woods one night, and isn’t seen for eight years until he walks up to his house and finds different people living in it. Here the film impressed me by showing this whole sequence from his blind perspective, because for him only about four hours have passed and he can’t figure out why when the cops track down his parents, (Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartwright are very effective) they have aged so much. Their reunion is treated maturely and with impressively adequate emotion from Cramer, who ever so slightly reminds me of a young Henry Thomas, therefore cementing the Amblin vibes nicely. David has of course been abducted by aliens but that’s no spoiler as you can see by the chromed up spacecraft jetting around on the film’s poster. The resident extraterrestrial who took him now returns and the two embark on an initially disorganized and frequently hilarious ‘mission’ to find star charts downloaded to David’s brain, evade a pesky NASA bigwig (Howard Hesseman) and return David to his family.

This film is a wondrous creation because of how laid back the action is. David teams up nicely with the alien, a rambunctious robotic arm named Max and voiced by Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens. Most of their time together isn’t spent lamenting the situation or blasting government troops with phaser beams but rather goofing off, rocking out to the earth music that Max takes to, hanging out with other alien specimens he has adopted in his voyages (cue the adorable 80’s practical effects) and zooming around the globe in their vehicle which provides some very good exterior FX too. A young Sarah Jessica Parker also shows up as a sweetheart of a NASA defector who watches out for David and eventually helps him escape. It’s a terrific film that doesn’t take itself too seriously yet doesn’t goof off too much and ruin setup and believability (I’m looking at you, Joe Dante’s misfire ‘Explorers’). It benefits greatly from Cramer who was a true find but doesn’t seem to have had much of a career following this. Greatly recommended.

-Nate Hill

Remembering Flight of the Navigator with Randal Kleiser by Kent Hill

I was still a boy, and there was no such thing as a multiplex in sight the night I saw Flight of the Navigator.

I remember what was then the Russell Street theatre. A relatively new cinema built as its aged counterpart, The Strand, had slipped into disrepair. I remember the smell of the new carpet mixing with the popcorn, how the place always seemed packed, as two lines of movie-goers had to snake around both sides of the block to line up.

But it was a quiet Friday night when I went with my Mum to see Randal Kleiser’s new movie. From the poster, which was all you had to go on back in those days, it looked like one heck of a ride. Another boy meets an alien movie in the wake of the monumental achievement that was E.T. But let’s not descend into comparisons,  such is the way of the industry. Like Dante’s Explorers, Flight of the Navigator is an ingenious blending of many great elements. It begins as a movie about a family, about two brothers. Then we fall into a time travel story that sees our hero transported eight years into a future where he is presumed to be dead. This is further compounded by the fact that he has not aged a day. Thus the testing begins, a search for the heart of the mystery. The testing reveals the hero’s head is filled alien information and that he had been selected as a specimen to study on a far-flung planet in a distant galaxy. The boy is then taken by NASA scientists to be scrutinized further. This is where the boy meets alien story begins and our hero takes off inside a spacecraft in an adventure, not only to help the alien return home, but to once more, travel back in time and get home himself.

That’s a fairly vague overview I know. But I always take into account that there may yet be someone out there that has not seen the movie. That being the chase, I have no desire to spoil it for them.

After I saw the movie I wanted to write Randal Kleiser a letter, which I did, telling him what a marvelous movie I thought he’d made. I did not know where to send it, so my Dad looked up the address of Walt Disney Pictures and we mailed it together.

I know now Mr. Kleiser never got my letter, because thirty years later I got to call him on the phone and tell him just that – what a marvelous movie I thought and still think Flight of the Navigator is.

I hope you’ll enjoy our interview  you dumb dork! Buttface! Scuz-bucket! Ha-ha!

P.S. –

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