Saturday, January 9, 2016

Revisiting the Classics -- Flight of the Navigator

It's been quite some time since I've done this segment, so I thought I'd bring it back. Today we have the underappreciated 1986 film Flight of the Navigator.
The story begins on July 4, 1978, but it certainly doesn't stay there. 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is celebrating the nation's birthday in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with his parents and younger brother. When they get home from the festivities, David is sent into the woods to get his brother who's been playing out there. David trips and falls into a small ravine, but quickly gets out of it and heads home.
Or so he thinks.
But when he gets back, he finds a strange couple living in his house. A confused and scared David is taken to the police station to answer questions from equally confused cops who discover he was reported missing eight years ago and it's now 1986. David is reunited with his much older family who don't know what the hell happened but are glad to have him back.
Elsewhere, NASA officials discover an inert space craft of unknown origins. Dr. Louis Faraday (Howard Hesseman) finds out David has somehow created a computer printout of the ship and starts thinking the two cases are related. So David is brought in for testing and displays uncanny mental faculties. He is scared by this but puts up with it, believing the whole thing will be over in two days and he can return to his family. But he soon discovers Faraday isn't letting him go home any time soon, so he convinces intern Carolyn (a much younger Sarah Jessica Parker) to help him escape, and she manages to get him smuggled out in a robot.
The robot takes him to the ship which opens for him. He goes inside and meets robotic AI Max (Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens, though he's listed as "Paul Mall"). Max explains that David has been chosen as the ship's navigator to help with his mission. After an attempt to download the contents of David's brain results in a personality 360 for Max, the pair set out to evade NASA and hopefully get David back home to his own time.
Flight of the Navigator was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and it's a shame it never got a stronger following. It has quality special effects (for the time), some big-name stars (and one person who would later become a big-name star). It also has a delightful sense of wonder which really appealed to the child in me. You might think I'm blinded by nostalgia, but I still think this is a good movie. I just watched it for the first time in 20+ years and I feel it holds up. If you've never seen it, you've done yourself a disservice. Go see Flight of the Navigator.

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