The Birthday Series–Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Droids-Birthday-Series-1986Ah, childhood memories. For most of us we remember our childhood through rose coloured glasses. At least I do. Nearly all my memories of childhood are positive. This includes movies I watched back when I wasn’t so cynical and demanding. Some movies stand the test of time, like Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, which are as entertaining today as they were when I first saw them. But others are strictly for that time when your expectations were simple, and all it took were broad themes and straightforward storytelling to make you happy. The latter is the case with ‘Flight of the Navigator’, a film I loved as a kid, but haven’t seen for over twenty years. Writing that sentence makes me sad.

Flight-of-the-Navigator-PosterDavid (Joey Cramer) is a 12 year old boy in a happy home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On that oh so proud to be an American holiday, Independence Day, David and his little brother Jeff are roughhousing in the nearby woods when David slips and falls. Waking up, David heads home where he discovers his home occupied by complete strangers. The police are called and David’s parents are located. It turns out that David has been missing for eight years, and while the world has aged, he is still twelve. Nearby an alien spaceship is discovered, and NASA has made the connection between the discovery of the spaceship and the reappearance of David. Tests indicate David holds the secrets to the spaceships origin and it’s up the him and the ships computer Max (voice of Paul Mall) to complete the mission and get him home.

Flight-of-the-Navigator-3‘Flight of the Navigator’ is a great film for kids. My memories of it were all about how I identified with David’s plight. Hoping that he would escape the bad NASA people so that he’d be safe with his family. I also remember being thrilled at the spaceship. The creatures on board, flying into space and under the ocean, and laughing along with the humour between David and Max the computer. Over twenty years later I am not so easily pleased. I can see the clunky conventions of the story. The dialogue is simplistic and the characters broadly sketched. The interaction between David and Max is mildly amusing at first, but once Max scans David’s brain for the co-ordinates (an explanation would be too long-winded) and takes on a wacky childish personality he becomes annoying. But I will readily admit, this is a Disney film back when Disney aimed it’s films squarely at kids. I can appreciate that. This film is simply not for adult consumption.

Flight-of-the-Navigator-5The film is effectively directed by Randal Kleiser, who was pretty successful in his time, having directed ‘Grease’ and ‘The Blue Lagoon’ as well as a few TV movies including ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ with John Travolta. Kleiser keeps the story moving and the scenes with the spaceship are particularly impressive. The film features the first use of morphing special effects in a film which hold up surprisingly well, mainly because of the very simplistic design of the spaceship.

The acting is as good as the writing. Basic and straightforward. Joey Cramer shoulders the load as David, appearing in nearly every scene, and while never embracing our sympathy, doesn’t irritate either. It’s interesting to see New York’s equine princess Sarah Jessica Parker makes an appearance as a friendly NASA minion, but her role is brief and doesn’t amount to much.

Flight-of-the-Navigator-6‘Flight of the Navigator’ is a film that’s specifically targeted at kids, and that’s where it’s strength lies. There’s not a great deal that will appeal to adults, even those with fond memories, such as I have. Sometimes fond memories should remain just that.

Since I’ve made it a point in this review that ‘Flight of the Navigator’ is clearly a kids film, I’ve decided to dish out two separate ratings.

For kids…


For Grumpy Old Men…


Take it easy,



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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

38 responses to “The Birthday Series–Flight of the Navigator (1986)”

  1. Droid says :

    FYI… I’m an equal opportunity slacker. Not only am I lazy in writing reviews, I’m also lazy in posting reviews I’ve already written! I wrote this one I wrote in January!

  2. Spud McSpud says :

    “Ah, childhood memories. For most of us we remember our childhood through rose coloured glasses. At least I do. Nearly all my memories of childhood are positive.”

    There’s a scientific reason for that! Apparently every time we remember a long-term memory, the neural pathway that the brain has created for that memory gets retraced and therefore strengthened, in the same way that the more you ride a bicycle over a dirt path, the deeper the furrow on that path, hence making it easier to see. Neural pathways get more entrenched every time a memory is recalled, and obviously you’re more likely to recall good memories than bad ones (which tend to get repressed). After a few decades, the only neural pathways that can be clearly recalled will be those linked to good memories, because they’re recalled more often. The pathways for the bad or less-often recalled memories eventually begin to fade, making them harder to recall clearly.

    And there you have it. The older you get, the better the past looks to you. Or maybe the movies were just better back in the ’80s…

    • Continentalop says :

      The 70’s movies were without a doubt better, that’s for sure.

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Let’s see…. Nope.
      1986 was better than 2011. Fact.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        Doc, in 1977 cinema – and my entire life – changed forever. For all the greatness that the 80s have – and by God, it has a metrick FUCKTON of greatness – 1977 gave us the movie that everything else in cinema history will forever be compared to. So, for that, Conti wins, though I’m doubting he’s thinking of STAR WARS as the main reason why the 70s ruled…

      • Spud McSpud says :

        Example 1 – CAPRICORN ONE (1978). Name a more tense, thrilling conspiracy thriller than this one, but released in the 80s. There isn’t one, because CAPRICORN ONE is the fucking daddy of all conspiracy thrillers. It spawned an entire generation of nutjobs so fucking dense that they actually believe we never went to the moon. All from the man who gave us Van Damme vs a chicken mascot in SUDDEN DEATH, and Tom Sizemore vs a mutating troglodyte in THE RELIC.

        Peter Hyams – the dependable director Brett Ratner WISHES he could be…

      • DocPazuzu says :

        Whoa there, hoss. My comment wasn’t directed at Conti. It was in reply to your post about neural pathways and time and how the past always seems better. I contend that 1986 was a better year than 2011, that’s all.

        As for 70s goodness, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something so gritty and cool about 1970s thrillers. It was done with such seeming ease yet hardly anyone can recapture that feeling in movies today. The Seven-Ups, French Connection, Sorcerer, Three Days of the Condor, Klute, Marathon Man…. the list never ends.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        I agrees w/ Noted_Sage Dr. PaZooz. Because. You know he’s right. Search your feelings.

  3. Spud McSpud says :

    FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR… there’s a movie that brings back memories!! Must dig out my copy sometime. I remember it being fun but forgettable, some weird cute lil alien that looked like a Peperami with knuckles, a wise-ass spaceship monitor, and those amazing morphing SFX, which were fantastic back in the day.

    It’s weird, I’m catching up on ’80s movies I missed first time round, like D.A.R.Y.L. (fun film, but like NAVIGATOR broadly sketched characters and predicatable plot, though the kid is likable enough) and SPACE CAMP (much more fun, with Leaf (now Joaquin) Phoenix doing the cute kid role and Lea Thompson being SO FUCKING HOT!!. Kate Capshaw was teh hotness too in that movie, though she seems to be playing her role as a sinister government agent, which is fucking distracting. Great movie though, and one I’d watch again. FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR fits right into this, so I’m gonna dig it out and give it a spin. Cheers for the great (but belated!) review, Droid 😀

  4. Joachim Boaz says :

    What a HIDEOUS spaceship! I wish I saw this when I was a kid… too late now I guess…. haha

    • Spud McSpud says :

      HOW VERY DARE YOU, Joachim!! Wash your mouth out ;P

      Now, that abomination at the end of PAUL… now THAT is a shit spaceship design…

  5. D.Vader says :

    I wanted that little 3 limbed alien for a pet.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    I haven’t seen it. I always liked ‘Explorers’ though & that bubblegum chewing dog!

    Oh, don’t tell me about lazy writing/ posting, R2. I’ve had ‘Red Planet’ done for 3 weeks but can be barely arsed even logging online…

  7. MORBIUS says :

    MAX (Paul Mall?) better known as . . .

    Paul . . .”I know you are, but what am I” . . . Reubens.

    PeeWee Herman.

  8. Lbronco says :

    “The film is effectively directed by Randal Kleiser, who was pretty successful in his time, having directed ‘Grease’ and ‘The Blue Lagoon’ as well as a few TV movies including ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ with John Travolta.”

    Pretty successful?!? That’s a fucking epic track record.

    Go ahead- review “Blue Lagoon”.

    We’ll see what kind of stripes you wear, you bastard. 🙂

    • Droid says :

      It’s a good track record, but I wouldn’t say it’s “fucking epic”. Rob Reiner, now there’s a fucking epic 80’s run.

      This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery, A Few Good Men.

      Fucking epic!

    • TomBodet says :

      Michael Curtiz: Casablanca, Adventures of Robin Hood, etc. That’s epic.

      • Jarv says :

        Truly impressive run, that.

        I’d also like to add Powell before he committed career suicide with Peeping Tom and Hitchcock pre Torn Curtain

      • Droid says :

        Hitch. That’s the other movie I watched on the weekend. The Birds. Good flick that just ends without a satisfying resolution.

        For a laugh we youtubed the Birdemic trailer. Looks unbelievable. Has anyone seen it!?

      • Jarv says :

        I really like the end of the Birds, and don’t think it’s unsatisfying. By this stage, we know that it’s the Lovebirds that are attracting the savage flock- and walking through them all is creepy as fuck. When he has to take the Love birds with him, you know it’s all going to end in tears.

        I reckon that’s a classic example of less being more, actually.

      • Droid says :

        Is it the love birds though? I don’t think that really holds up.

        I agree with the end being tense. But I think that it ends too quickly. Maybe it’s the way films used to end then. Credits at the start of the movie, and just a Studio logo immediately after the end to the film. It just seemed too quick. An ominous fade to black and then some moody music over credits would’ve worked better.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s subtly done, but I always took it as them bringing the pain.

        Oh, you mean the actual Credits and then drawn out? Nah, I’m fine with it ending as it does. Leaves it open for debate. Oh, and want to bet that the remake finishes with the love birds chirping in the car and then the gang getting killed on the road out of Bodega Bay?

      • Jarv says :

        Off home. See you later.

      • Droid says :

        It’s only the second time I’ve seen the movie (first time was in the 90’s), and I thought about the love birds being the catalyst for it. But I just don’t buy into it. There’s too many attacks that are away from the house. The first attack the love birds have been delivered to the house and she’s on the other side of the bay when it occurs. If all the attacks were where the lovebirds were, or at least in the general vicinity, then okay. There’s also radio reports of other communities experiencing bird attacks.

        I actually think it works better without explanation. That the birds are just randomly attacking.

        I heard they were remaking it. But is it going ahead? It’s Platinum Dunes isn’t it?

      • Jarv says :

        Indeed it is Platinum Goons.

        I think it is the love birds- don’t forget none of the avian shenanigans started before the birds showed up in town.

        Still, we’re having a debate about a little horror film, how many nowadays manage to inspire that? You can bet the remake won’t.

  9. Tom_Bando says :

    Funny I always have liked this one. Remember the scene of culture shock for the kid when he’s watching TV and being assaulted by all the MTV/80’s aerobics/Miami Vice type shows etc? I remember the difference between the two eras quite well-’78 vs. 86, trust me it was there. They conveyed this quite well.

    As for the rest-Pee Wee Herman robot voice, ship F/X, Johnny Fever as a Suit, etc–well okay, it is what it is. I think Droid about gets it right here.

  10. Jarv says :

    Statler and Waldorf FTW!!!

    Actually, I haven’t seen this since I was a kid. I remember really liking it.

  11. koutchboom says :

    Speaking of great kids movies. I saw Labryinth and The Dark Crystal this week. Both amazing films. Dark Crystal wins but a hair because it’s held up better, but thats mainly because its not as ambitious effects wise as Lab. But also I dug the story of Dark Crystal more.

    But man I’m not sure if I have seen those movies before, I think I had just don’t remember, but fuck they were good and held up for me as an adult. Those are both pretty dark/hard stories for a kid. I mean hard in that they aren’t simple kids stories. MAN they both looked amazing in HD as well.

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