Even giants like Disney have movies that fall through the cracks and are not heard from much after their initial release. One such movie is Flight of the Navigator. Flight of the Navigator finally got a DVD release recently in the UK but in the states has not been produced since the 80's. That's actually kind of odd considering how Disney loves to pimp their movies for all they are worth. I mean how many times have you heard Snow White was going to be "locked in the Disney vault" and that you should buy it now. And how many horrible sequels to classics like The Lion King or Little Mermaid have there been? All this and they cannot be bothered to re-release Flight of the Navigator in the US. Oh well I guess you can't expect much from Disney anymore.
It was released in 1986 and to spite having top notch acting talent in the film such as Sarah Jessica Parker and the powerhouse Pee-Wee Herman, Flight of the Navigator grossed just 18.5 million… Not good for a Disney movie. This is no doubt why it has been largely forgotten by both the public and Disney. Regardless I enjoyed this movie as a youngster quite a bit. The thought of getting to drive a futuristic space ship around with a cool robot was a pretty neat idea.
Flight of the Navigator starts with David Freeman and his family as they watch a thrilling dog Frisbee catching contest… After the gripping show is over they all head home. On their way home David's <font color="red">SUPER DORK</font> little brother Jeff asks if he can go light some fireworks with some nearby kids seeing as how it is the fourth of July. Jeff takes off and the rest of the family returns home. With it getting late, David's parents ask him to go and get Jeff and bring him home. David reluctantly agrees and sets off through a forest to fetch his little brother. Of course the forest is foggy and very spooky and we know right away this little walk in the forest may have not been such a good idea. Along the way David, being rather klutzy, manages to fall into a rather large pit and knocks himself unconscious. Now when I say rather large pit maybe what I should be saying is huge chasm of death. David should be glad that he only lost eight years and did not cave his skull in.
David finally comes around and climes out of the chasm of death he fell into and starts the journey home. Once home he finds that his family is no longer there and that strange new people are now living in his home. Confused, they have no choice but to call the police and let them sort it out. The police soon find that David was reported missing and presumed dead but what really puzzles them is that it was reported 8 years ago and David seems to have not aged at all. They locate David's parents current residence and decide to take David to see his parents and find out if he is really who he says he is.
David's parents are happy to see him but are baffled at how this could be possible and quickly contact doctors and psychiatrists to try and determine what happened in those eight years David was missing. While David is being interrogated by doctors strange things begin to happen with the computer he is connected to. It begins to spit out schematics of a strange vessel and only adds more questions as to what happened that night.
Meanwhile NASA has a dilemma of their own to contend with. It seems a strange space craft has collided with power lines and is floating in mid air. Nobody has any idea what it is or where it came from. They quickly pack up the floating ship and move it to their top secret base to see if they can't figure out what the hell it is.
The reports of what is happening to David and what they are pulling out of his noggin quickly reaches Dr. Faraday, head of the NASA facility that is housing the strange space ship. He sets out to try and woo David's parents into letting him take David and see what he knows about the ship they recently acquired. The family decides that it would be the best thing for David if he went with the Doctor since he would have access to top of the line medical equipment and the finest Doctors to find out exactly what happened to David.
As David arrives at the hush, hush NASA base he begins hearing strange voices asking for help, voices that sound oddly familiar. Once in the base David is locked in a room with that would make any kid cream his pants. I remember when I watched this as a youngster and saw what David got in his room at NASA and I wanted my parents to ship me off to a secret government facility. Now we are introduced to the lovely Miss Carolyn McAdams played by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker before people knew her as a sassy gossiping bitch from New York talking about her sex life. It is kind of a rip-off since she does not talk about having sex even once during the entire movie. Although she does say that David is cute, this is kind of weird considering she is at least ten years older than him. She also brings with her a little robot sidekick by the name of Ralf. This robot is pretty amazing for 1986 and I am still wondering why we have not seen one yet in real life when it's almost 2004.
Dr. Faraday Wastes no time in running tests on David and gets him strapped to the finest 1986 computers available. As soon as he is strapped down they begin asking David questions and something odd happens. The computer begins to relay answers David seems to have no knowledge of. It is revealed that David has spent the last 8 years in analysis mode on a planet called Phaelon. The Doctor decides to call it quits for the day and sends David back to his room.
Back in his room David begins hearing voices again, except this time closer. He can feel the voices coming from a nearby hanger and devises a way out. While Ralf the robot is bringing his food David climbs inside and lets the robot secretly take him off to the hanger. Now I don't work for a top secret government facility but you would really tend to think security would be tight but David manages ride right in and walk right up the space ship. No guards, no cameras, nothing. Oh well I guess that would complicate things plot wise so we will just forget it. The ship seems to respond to David and through some cutting edge special effects a door appears as if by magic. The guards guarding David's room finally notice he is missing and sound the alarm. As soon as Dr. Faraday hears that David is missing he knows exactly where he is and orders everyone to secure the hanger. The Doctor arrives at the Hanger just in time to see David step inside and the door shut.
Inside the space ship we are introduced to Trymaxian, or Max as David decides to call him. Max is voiced by the legendary Paul Reubens or better known as Pee-Wee Herman. I had no idea the voice was Paul Reubens until I saw it as an adult and was able to put two and two together. Max explains that David was programmed with all the necessary star charts as a standard procedure during his tests on Phaelon and that when max crashed into the power lines it corrupted all of his star charts and that he now needs David's help in getting home.
David and Max take off to hide until they sort things out. Max explains that he is on a mission to examine various species and that David was one of those species being examined. Max explains that usually specimens are returned to the same time as when they are taken but crashing into the power line somehow caused things to go wrong and that sending him back now may kill him. With this news David resigns himself to the fact that he may never get back to his own time and that he might as well go back to his family in 1986. After Max downloads the star charts stored in David's head it soon becomes apparent that the star charts were not all he downloaded. Max takes on a sassy attitude and Pee-Wee Herman really starts to shine.
I never really realized it before but not much happens once David makes it into the space ship besides some arguing between Max and David and them trying to find their way to San Francisco. After some shenanigans David finds his way home only to find that it is surrounded by nasty NASA guys in black suits. Seeing this David decides that he would rather risk death and has Max send him back in time rather than live a life in test labs. David wakes up to find himself back in the ditch he first fell into and makes his way home. He finds his family just the way he left them back in 1978. They all sit out under the stars and watch fireworks and everybody lives happily ever after.
In Disney's long history Flight of the Navigator was a pretty small spec and it's pretty easy to see how it could get passed over for DVD releases. It was far from successful and I guess Disney would rather just cut its losses and forget about it. It's too bad really since it is a respectable kid's movie. Even though it is far from winning an Oscar for best picture I think kids would still get a kick out of it even nowadays.