It was just a question of what would be first. I have watched two episodes of The Mandalorian. I have watched some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons. I even watched a Star Wars documentary. But what was going to be the first movie I watched on Disney+?
The decision ended up being a whole lot easier than I thought. AIPT is celebrating Star Wars month, but aside from The Rise of Skywalker, I am not really in the mood for anything from that franchise. Still, I wanted to do something in the science fiction genre. This led me to a movie that I had actually never seen before.
Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 movie directed by Randall Kleiser of Grease fame. The story revolves around 12 year old Joey Kramer. The film begins in 1978 but after falling down a ravine, Joey wakes up in 1986.
The first half of the movie is great. Joey’s family is well written. They could be anyone’s neighbors. It is understandable why films have larger than life figures. It is always refreshing to see down to earth characters, however.
The early stages of the movie also have a great atmosphere. Flight of the Navigator is a different type of family friendly Disney movie. The plot is more mature than expected. A neat mystery is built up early on. The audience does not know who to trust or what is going on.
Things take a change for the worse after more of the story is revealed. The pacing changes at this point. The careful story changes to a plot that involves space travel, time travel, and uncaring NASA scientists. It is less convoluted than it sounds but does not work anyway.
One problem is Max. Voiced by Paul Reubens during the height of his Pee-Wee Herman days, the alien is strictly for children. Very young children. Max is loud, obnoxious, and there to get his many catchphrases over.
The more kid friendly plot is not bad. It just is such a step down after the promising opening. Few movies make as much of a tonal shift as Flight of the Navigator. What starts as a somewhat dark mystery turns into a series of childish segments. The opening will capture everyone’s attention; about halfway through all the adults will leave the room.
If you are going to make a science fiction movie, it helps to have good special effects. The inside of the spaceship is neat. It is a minimalist design that is that is little more than a cockpit. The Navigator’s chair almost has a throne like quality that looks more fun than regal. There are plenty of shiny doodads to be found, but it is a very toned down look.
The outside of the ship is not shown as much. This is probably for the best as it basically looks like a giant shiny pistachio. This is not to say Flight of the Navigator has bad special effects. There are surprisingly few, and the ones that are used are fine. However, it is clear the same imagination that went into designing the inside of the spacecraft was not used on the outside.
Despite its flaws, Flight of the Navigator is a fun movie. The opening act is a surprisingly tense affair that will make some wonder if they are watching the correct film. As it becomes more fantastical, it morphs more into a children’s movie. Unsurprisingly, some members of the audience will be decide to tune out at this point. Flight of the Navigator is paint by numbers stuff at this point that is fine background noise.
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