Cult Movie Essentials

Cult Movie Essentials: Flight of The Navigator (1986)

Flight of The Navigator is one of those films that it doesn’t matter who you speak to, if they’ve seen it, then they remember it fondly.  It’s a great film, ok the review isn’t over, but I have kind of spoilt the verdict for later.

With quite a powerful cast including Veronica Cartwright, who is Sci-Fi Royalty due to her inclusion in the Ridley Scott film, Alien.  Cliff DeYoung accompanies Veronica Cartwright as Bill and Helen Freeman, the parents of 12 year old David, played admirably by the child star Joey Cramer, sadly only a child star as later on in life he ran into conflict with the legal authorities after deciding to rob a bank, I kid you not. Another notable cast member is that of a very young Sarah Jessica Parker in one of her earliest big screen roles.

  • Joey Cramer as David Freeman
  • Paul Reubens (credited as “Paul Mall”) as the voice of Max
  • Cliff DeYoung as Bill Freeman
  • Veronica Cartwright as Helen Freeman
  • Matt Adler as Jeff Freeman
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as Carolyn McAdams
  • Howard Hesseman as Dr. Louis Faraday

The film starts with a warm July 4th evening in 1978 where David is sent by his parents, to pick up his younger brother, Jeff, from a friend’s house.  He walks through a wooded area and Jeff jumps out from behind a tree and triggers off a chase when David accidentally falls down a hill and knocks himself unconscious. He wakes up and heads back home to find that his home isn’t his home and that an elderly couple now reside there.  Now this is where I think Joey Cramer would’ve made an amazing actor as he was convincing as a very upset “where’s my Mom>” kid.  And this acting ability continues throughout the film and I think he outshone the cast of experienced adult actors that supported him.

Cue a phone call to the Police, it transpires that David, who hasn’t aged a day, is convinced that he’s in 1978, is actually in 1986 and he is reunited with his parents, to their joy and his complete confusion (again, great acting by Joey).  The Government, in the form of NASA, confiscate an alien spaceship that has crashed into some power lines and hear about Joey and his experience and after some brainwave tests it is revealed that David has images of the spaceship in his brain.  NASA’s Dr Louis Faraday (Howard Hessmeman) sees the connection and convinces David and his parents to “come and stay with Nasa for 48 hours” and the parents agree, not that I would allow my recently found son to be taken away by the authorities.

Whilst at the secret NASA facility, David is reunited with the spaceship with help from Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker) and whilst NASA hasn’t managed to penetrate the spaceship, David accesses the ship with ease and we are then introduced to his comedy sidekick in the form of the robotic essence of the Trimaxion Drone Ship, voiced by Paul Reubens (known as the actor behind Peewee Herman in the USA).  David christens his robotic pal, Max, and Max refers to David as the Navigator, so it becomes a tad confusing but at least it appears that two travellers have been reunited.  David asks Max to take him far away from the NASA facility and in a few seconds they are 20 miles away giving David some thinking space.

Cutting this enjoyable storyline short, it transpires that David was taken by Max whilst he was unconscious and taken to Phaelon, Max’s home planet, for analysis as Max’s mission was to collect biological specimens and take them home unharmed.  David’s brain was filled with star charts to see how much his brain could soak up.  Determining that David might not be able to survive a time jump back to his original time of 1978, Max dropped the unconscious David in 1986 and then promptly crashed into the powerlines erasing all his star charts via a power surge.  So here we have two refugees from two planets stuck out of their time.

David isn’t the only biological passenger inside the Trimaxion Drone Ship, other aliens are returning home, all be it one of them whose planet was destroyed and David bonds with the Puckmaren.

To obtain the star charts, Max performs a mind transfer with David and in the process, receives some human attitude, cue a sarky, mardy, patronising and more entertaining Max.  In the meantime, Carolyn manages to get to meet the parents, tell them what’s happening, and NASA Pounce and then they get confined to house arrest and Caroyln is frog marched back to the base.

David manages to contact Jeff, via a phone at a petrol station to say that he’s coming home and could he send a signal so they can vector in on the family home.  Jeff sends up fireworks and Max and David home in to find the place covered with NASA agents ready to confine David and Max.  Thinking that David will be taken away again, he convinces Max to take him home to 1978 regardless of the risk.

David wakes up in the same place as he did in 1986, he takes the long walk home and just before he arrives home, he hears the sweet sound of his family calling him from their small pleasure boat and he re-joins them as if nothing had happened.  As the celebration of July 4th 1978 kicks off, David shares a moment with his brother showing him the Puckmaren in his back-pack much to Jeff’s surprise.  The film rolls to credits as Max zooms across the night sky amongst the fireworks.

Verdict:8/10. No matter who you are, no matter what your background is, Flight of The Navigator is 90 minutes of pure innocent entertainment, well I say innocent but it was the second Disney film to contain profanity.  Joey Cramer is convincing enough that you do really feel for him and smile at the end knowing that he’s been through a lot and also experienced something rare and amazing.  The film had a $9 million budget and every dollar was well spent as the film was convincing enough.  My only negative criticism is that NASA were made to look like the bad guys when NASA really are pioneers of space and not goons.

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