While some films are adversely affected by the ravages of time thanks to the more negative facets of the storyline (see the Short Circuit review), others remain stubbornly inoffensive – they may eventually fade from memory, so innocuous and deft are the plot nuances and character touches, but they remain in the memory by virtue of the warm fuzzy feeling evoked by mere mentions of their name – rather like being drugged, we would imagine. This brings us nicely onto Flight Of The Navigator.
The opening act sees 12-year-old David (Joey Cramer) being knocked unconscious after falling into a ravine, only upon waking up to find that eight years has passed, that he has missed most of the Eighties – a familiar feeling for some who lived it, no doubt – his parents have aged, and his younger brother is now his elder. Having been interned at a NASA base by baffled scientists, he encounters a similarly quarantined sentient spacecraft (voiced by Paul Reubens), which subsequently takes him on the kind of voyage of discovery that Disney might as well trademark.
Tenuous, half-arsed and most likely misread allegories for being spaced out aside, Flight Of The Navigator bears all the relevant imprints of your average Eighties kids movie: the precocious child actor lead; cuddly/gross the alien/robot/creature sidekick, and an unconventional rite of passage-esque adventure leading to the young protagonist discovering things about himself to replace the dearth uncovered by the loss of innocence that has occurred beforehand. It’s all very structured, but there’s little meat on the bones beyond the rigid Disney-focused plot, ultimately rendering it forgettable within hours of watching.
Flight Of The Navigator clung on to the tail-end of the wave of whimsical alien adventures inspired by ET, and it shows. It feels like something that has been heavily focus-grouped to cram together all the elements that made Steven Spielberg’s coming-of-age classic such a stunning opus, although little attention has been made to assign nuance to any of these individual plot components, ultimately meaning that Flight Of The Navigator lacks the one thing that made ET such a emotive and unforgettable piece of film: heart. Coupled with a nonsensical and patronising ending that flies in the face of all prior facts established beforehand, and you have a dainty relic that was best off left in the Eighties.