Pee-Wee Navigating for Pee-Wee Navigator
Imagine if you're car navigation system had Pee-Wee-Herman delivering instructions, it would grate as it does in Disney's 80's sci-fi flick "Flight of the Navigator" where Paul Reuben the man behind Pee-Wee Herman voices Max a computer on a spaceship. But that is just one of various gripes I have with a movie which for some reason didn't register on my radar back in the 80s when it was released.
Having spent the day with his family at the 1978 Canine Frisbee Championships, 12 year old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) mysteriously goes missing from his Fort Lauderdale home. 8 years later and David shows up again and whilst everything else has changed, David is still 12 years old and believes he's only been gone for a few hours. At the same time a mysterious spaceship turns up and it's not long before NASA put two and two together and link David to the machine. They soon discover that David's head has been filled with star charts and although he doesn't realise it has been acting as a navigator on the ship from a far away planet.
"Flight of the Navigator" starts with what looks like a flying saucer hovering over a city before we suddenly realise we're watching a Frisbee which gets caught by a dog and there are more as we are at the 1978 Canine Frisbee Championships. It's not the greatest of openings and it has to be said that the first part of the movie as we are introduced to the Freeman family is all very rudimentary.
Thankfully set up out of the way and the accident which means that David suddenly reappears in 1986 without realising he's been missing for 8 years and the movie really starts to get going. We get a series of scenes where David finds that things have changed since 1978 such as his favourite TV show "Starskey & Hutch" is no longer on and music has moved on since the Bee Gee's and The Beach Boys. It's all obvious stuff but there is always fun where someone is transported unwittingly to a different era and has to discover all these changes.
It's also in this second half we get introduced to the spacecraft which it has to be said considering "Flight of the Navigator" was made back in mid 80s the special effects are surprisingly good which get more impressive as the movie goes on. And the best part of the movie is literally when all we get is David in this flashy spacecraft and a range of effects as he travels all over the world as he tries to get back home and away from those men at NASA who want to poke and probe him. Although saying that the constant whacky voice of Paul Reuben as Max the spacecrafts robot ends up grating rather than being humorous as I am sure it was intended.
Aside from Paul Reuben, Joey Cramer does a very good job of being likeable as David, although to be honest the script obviously didn't require him to be much more other than a little frightened when he learns that 8 years of his life have gone missing. And other than that there really aren't any major performances, although Sarah Jessica Parker cropping up as a cute worker at NASA makes for a bit of light entertainment with the very 80s pink streaks in her hair.
What this all boils down to is that "Flight of the Navigator" is an adventure movie made at a level to appeal to a young audience of mainly boys with it's fantasy of flying a space craft. There is no depth to it and the jokes from an adult's point of view are obvious. But a child I am sure would get something out of it even now over 20 years after it was made.