|'the fond nostalgia of twenty and thirty-somethings for this has only been enhanced by its relative obscurity and non-appearance on critical and commercial radars'|
The new blu-ray release of Disney's Flight Of The Navigator will be a must-purchase come Christmas time for nostalgia-hungry parents, eager to subject their young children to a film which fulfilled their own Science-Fiction fantasies on lazy Sunday afternoons back in 1986. All but disowned by Disney (this release comes courtesy of Second Sight, who have made a business out of picking up disowned films for distribution), the relationship between the fond nostalgia of twenty and thirty-somethings and Randal Kleiser's film has only been enhanced by its relative obscurity and non-appearance on critical and commercial radars.
So, does Flight Of The Navigator live up to the pedestal many, including myself, have put it on over the last few years? The answer, as ever, is more complicated than a simple 'yes' or 'no'.
Perhaps the biggest surprise that this blu-ray reveals is just how well the special effects seem to have coped with the passing of time. The steps to the spaceship David (Joey Cramer) eventually boards solidify from a liquid-metal, which looks very Matrix, as does the ship itself, zooming around and coming to dead stops fairly impressively. The interior, all reflective chrome and futuristic light sources, is a triumph of subtle design whilst the creatures look attractively retro; like someone has decorated their art deco apartment with some very fine shabby chic.
The rest proves less satisfactory. The story moves at a decent clip in setting up the mystery behind David's disappearance but it takes a massive forty-minutes before it starts to become fun and David meets Max (voiced by Paul Mall, now Paul Reubens, of Pee-Wee Herman fame). That leaves the film with not a great deal of time to develop their relationship (which it does well) and to find fantastic things for them to do (which it does less well). The supposed 'middle' section of Flight Of The Navigator feels like an aborted, occasionally mundane, road movie, with little of real noticeable import.
The performances are all mainly sub-par, from Cramer who is unconvincing, to Cop Raymond Forchion, who suffers from a scripting mistake forcing him to ask David who he thinks the president is when he has already told him the year, to Sarah Jessica Parker, who pops up as a rare human ally to David and is predictably poor.
Despite all that though, and like Short Circuit, which this is being pushed out with, there is value here in the very nostalgia itself, value in that you can now show your own children a film which seemed good at the time, and is still good enough to pass ninety-minutes at bed time. Its errors may be more glaring than your eight year-old self remembers, but its charm remains largely intact.
Flight Of The Navigator is released on UK Blu-ray on Monday 19th November 2012.