Disney delivers a staple of 80s childhood with a revisit to Flight of the Navigator. Watching it now, I find myself more interested in the mysteries going on at the edges of the story than the main thrust of the narrative following young David Freeman (Joey Cramer), his abduction and subsequent return eight years later, without any time passing for him at all.
It’s 1978, David is twelve, he’s at the point where he knows he wants to talk to girls but can’t figure out how, his younger brother annoys him, his dog, Bruiser can’t catch a frisbee, and his father (Cliff De Young) and mother (Veronica Cartwright) remind him to do his chores.
One night, when he’s sent to fetch his brother, by walking alone through the woods (hey, it was the 70s and 80s), he falls and when he gets back up, it’s eight years later, and he’s been declared legally dead. With the aid of the police he is reunited with his family, but is shocked to find they are all older.
Meanwhile, a strange craft has been recovered by NASA, and a project led by Dr. Louis Faraday (Howard Hessman), which will lead them right to David, who seems to be emitting strange alpha waves that have an effect on electronic devices.
Convincing the Freeman family to let David join him at a NASA compound, Faraday tries to suss out the connection between the two. David, trapped in a gilded cage, has one friend, an intern (at NASA? What’s the security clearance on something like that?!), Carolyn (Sarah Jessica Parker).
She helps him escape, as he responds to a voice in his head, which leads him right to the ship. It seems the ship abducted him for tests, and analysis, and had downloaded a series of star maps into David’s head which the craft needs to now retrieve.
Interacting with the ship’s onboard personality, MAX (Paul Reubens) the two escape the NASA base, and begin a fantastic journey that will take David to space, through time, and home. It’s fun, there’s some goofy stuff that happens, and a friendship that develops between the two beings, especially after a scan of David’s mind that adds a bit of an off beat personality to MAX
A number of the special effects are top notch, and stand up, though not all of them, and there seems to be some jumps in logic, editing and story (honestly, MAX can scan and download from David’s mind, he can pick up and tune in radio stations, has a psychic link with David, but can’t transmit on phone lines?) that detract from the overall experience. Honestly, as I sat watching it, I was thinking how it could be reworked, updated, and crafted to be a little more mysterious, and filled with wonder.
That being said, I remember everyone talking about this movie when I was young. One of the kids I used to babysit would have this on every other day or so, until we figured out what we were going to do with our day.
Ripe for an update (apparently there’s one in development with Bryce Dallas Howard at the helm), even perhaps an event series, as opposed to a short ninety minute movie…