Flight of the Navigator Review
It's the 4th July 1978, 12 year old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) and his family are gearing up for the festivities. Night time falls and while David is out looking for his younger brother, he falls down an embankment into a wooded glade and knocks himself unconscious. When he comes around, 8 years have passed for everyone else, but David hasn't aged a day. His reappearance coincides with the discovery of a crashed UFO, and it is not long before NASA and David himself put two and two together and connect the dots to his disappearance.
Back in the 1980's you couldn't move without hitting an E.T. clone, and Flight of the Navigator was clearly influenced by the friendly extra-terrestrial phenomenon. Navigator was first released in 1986, and was a Disney distributed picture. It was an early example of fully realised CGI, which nowadays, as the extras suggest, could be knocked up on your smart phone, but back in 1986 were cutting edge. But like many films of that era, Flight of the Navigator has an earnest, non threatening approach to filmmaking, and while aimed at the family audience, it doesn't really dumb it down for the kids in the audience. Joey Cramer as the titular Navigator David is very engaging and they surrounded him with industry veterans, however it is clearly his movie, and the audience see everything through his eyes.
I saw this film on first release at the cinema, and this new 4K scan is the best the film has ever looked. Navigator is a film near and dear to my heart, because it has a lot of heart. A family film all about family. This hit me at the right time, and being a younger brother to an older brother I could see the plight of the protagonist, as well as the younger brother who then has to deal with being the 'older' brother and it was one of a number of films that spoke to me, and continues to do so to this day.
I can't say that it's a perfect film, because it isn't. It has a great build up - the set up is perfect - but then by the time it gets to the 'Navigator' part of the movie, the movie is almost done, and it in a way feels anti-climactic, like it has no final third. Part of me always wanted to see more, but at the same time I am pleased that it is only 90 mins long. If this film ever gets the remake that Hollywood have mooted for years it'll be over 2 hours long and it'll most likely be a drag to watch.
Flight of the Navigator however is very much helped by the strong cast - the characters, in particular Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartwright as David's parents, and Joey Cramer as David himself add a weight to their characters that has probably kept the film's enduring appeal going. Matt Adler plays the adult younger brother Jeff, and just shows between this and Teen Wolf why he was such a strong teen actor, and should have got more roles. Sarah Jessica Parker in a small role is delightful as the girl who befriends David while he is at NASA and Max, the alien life form whose ship has crashed on earth is voiced well by Paul Reubens, otherwise known and very famous at the time as Pee-Wee Herman. Reubens goes by the pseudonym Paul Mall in the film, but he does the Pee-Wee Herman voice throughout, so I've never understood why he changed his name.
Music by Alan Silvestri is engaging, but is a far cry from the previous year's Back to the Future score in terms of grandeur. The visual effects, a combination of models and CGI hold up extremely well and the creature puppets are as fun as they ever were. This is just a delightful bit of nostalgic fun, and this disc is a delight.
The Second Sight package adds weight to the film in the form of over an hour of interviews that cover everything from Directing to Producing, to the actors and the visual effects.
Directing the Navigator - New Interview With Randal Kleiser
Kleiser (Director of Grease) is interviewed, and is very laid back, I didn't get a sense of enthusiasm from him that I was expecting, I found while his stories were engaging enough, I wanted more
Playing The Navigator - New interview with Joey Cramer
Brother of The Navigator - New interview with Matt Adler
Cramer is interviewed, which when I saw the Bluray announced, I was surprised, as I knew of his 'troubles', but he comes across very well and certainly there's a lot of awe there, and a hint of what it was like to be a teen actor in the 1980's. Adler, who I really enjoyed on the special features for Shout Factory's Teen Wolf is less engaging, maybe he would've benefited having someone to bounce questions and answers off, I don't know?
Mother of The Navigator - New interview with Veronica Cartwright
Cartwright always gives her all as an actor, from her early appearances in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), through to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), she gives a good account of what it was like to be involved in Navigator, as well as touching on her career.
From Concept to Creation: The Special Effects of Flight of the Navigator - New interviews with Jeff Kleiser, Randal Kleiser and Edward Eyth
The VFX one is quite in depth, and its interesting to see what seemed cutting edge then, is quite quaint by today's standards.
Producing the Navigator - New Interview With Dimitri Villard
The most fascinating extra is the interview with producer Dimitri Villard, who I was not really aware of. He talks a lot about who was up for directing Navigator, which reads like a who's who. John G Avildsen, James Cameron, Brian De Palma. The most fascinating part though was finding that the script was co-written by director Phil Joanou (Three O'Clock High, U2's Rattle and Hum) under a pseudonym. So many pseudonyms in this film.
The special features are rounded out by an archival Audio Commentary with Randal Kleiser and Executive Producer Jonathan Sanger, which is fine, but falls into the long gaps between speaking syndrome for commentaries.
The Limited Edition Contents of the package are a Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Rich Davies, a 100 page soft cover book with Randal Kleiser’s complete original storyboard, new essay by Kevin Lyons, original production notes, behind the scenes photos and a Reversible poster with new and original artwork.
The book (which wasn't available for review) I am looking forward to when my day one pre-ordered copy of the Blu-ray arrives. I'm very much looking forward to diving back into the world of Flight of the Navigator with my kids. It's one of those films that deserves to be seen.
Flight of the Navigator (1986)
Dir: Randal Kleiser | Cast: Cliff De Young, Joey Cramer, Paul Reubens, Veronica Cartwright | Writers: Mark H. Baker (story), Matt MacManus (screenplay), Michael Burton (screenplay)