Back when the Disney name meant a blockbuster movie every time, Walt Disney Productions gave kids a science fiction adventure that holds its place… in the ‘80s.
Is there a kid out there who didn’t want something amazing to happen to them? That’s the basis for most successful kid flicks, from Harry Potter to the Spy Kids. Disney’s Flight of the Navigator is no different, and formulated enough that you can almost hear the voice of someone like Rod Serling introducing the movie:
"Meet David Freeman, a young boy in 1978. He has parents who love him, a little bratty brother, and the beginnings his first crush on a childhood sweetie. But young David is about to step headfirst into… the amazing zone."
After meeting the central characters, David goes for a walk in the woods where he falls down an incline and passes out. He awakens to find it’s 8 years later and he hasn’t aged a day. As scientists start to try and identify what’s happened to our young hero, we see they have also recovered a UFO. Gee, do you think the two could be connected?
Certainly enough they are. David doesn’t remember the last eight years because he has spent that time on the spaceship. Because of the fragile nature of humans, the vessel was unable to take David back in time, so it simply wiped his memory and abandoned him, only to crash into some power lines. Now it needs the star charts it placed in David’s head in order to get back on track. Soon the young boy and space ship are united as David the navigator and Max the space ship computer each try to find their way back home. It’s a cute enough story, even if it relies on convenience from time to time.
The biggest downside of the film is it’s incredibly dated, and not a film that is necessarily going to relate well to modern day audiences. It has the requisite synthesizer soundtrack for any science fiction movie of the ‘80s and takes place in a world where cell phones didn’t exist, Sarah Jessica Parker’s purple strand of hair was considered hardcore, and the Beach Boys’ "I Get Around" was perfect traveling music. It’s definitely a film of yesteryear.
That however doesn’t remove all of its good sides. The film still has some breathtakingly stunning landscape shots as the space vessel travels at high velocity along the terrain. Also impressive are some of the special effect shots which, although unable to compare with a post Jurassic Park CGI world, still aren’t half bad in an 80’s version of The Day the Earth Stood Still kind of way. The highlight of the film is Max (Paul Reubens), the computerized operator of the vessel who, after inadvertently taking on some of David’s personality quirks sounds awfully like Pee Wee Herman at times. His bubbly chaotic personality is just too much fun, and after an afternoon spent watching Flight of the Navigator I can be mimic his respond to questions with an eager "Compliance!"
…And now for the awful truth. While I have written a review here of Flight of the Navigator, I have not written a review of the DVD release for the movie. Why you ask? Well, it’s simple - There’s no point to it. The DVD release of Flight of the Navigator has NO EXTRAS.
Come on Disney! Get with the program. I don’t know anybody these days that release a DVD with NO EXTRAS. That’s part of the fun of the DVD format, a chance to give the film lovers a chance to see behind the scenes or concepts that never happened. Disney had tons of opportunity with this movie: They could have documentaries about the groundbreaking special effects of the ship’s transformation sequences, or how about a funny commentary track by Paul Reubens in character? Maybe pull a Goonies and show a cast commentary with a now-and-then feel to it. Just give us something, but don’t just put out nothing and justify it by putting a cheaper price on it. You know what’s cheaper then a DVD with nothing on it? Watching the movie on television, or just watching my old scratched up VHS copy.
Let’s be honest. This wasn’t a fantastic movie and it’s dated enough that it won’t be a classic for the ages. The only people who really had a chance of buying it were those who wanted it for the nostalgia of it, and Disney had a chance to capitalize on that nostalgia by releasing a cornucopia of extras like they did with TRON. Instead this is the biggest insult to Disney DVD fans since Muppet Treasure Island was only released in fullscreen. I had completely planned to add this film to my DVD library, but I don’t buy DVDs with NO EXTRAS on them, and neither should you.