1986 gave us many classics, Top Gun, The Money Pit, Labyrinth, Short Circuit, The Three Amigos, Stand By Me, and Platoon. It also gave us Soul Man, Howard The Duck, and Shanghai Surprise, so no year is perfect. Disney’s Flight of the Navigator also landed in cinemas in 1986, and while it was far from a blockbuster at the time, it has garnered a loyal following over the years. And rightly so.
Our story starts in 1978, and if you’re a fan of various dogs catching (and not catching) frisbees to an 80s power synth soundtrack, the first three minutes of the movie delivers the goods. Young David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is your average 12-year-old kid. However, his life is changed forever when he walks through the woods one night to pick up his younger brother, Jeff. Aside from the questionable parenting skills from his mum (Veronica Cartwright) to go wandering through the woods alone at night, David meets his brother, but he doesn’t make it home for eight years. David awakens in the woods and heads home only to discover his family no longer lives there, and worse yet, it’s 1986!
When he’s reunited with his family the situation fails to improve, all his stuff is gone, his younger brother is now his older brother, and all his school friends are now 20 years old. Remember this is a Disney movie. David is whisked to a NASA facility where he is promised answers as to where he has been for eight years, why he hasn’t aged, and why he doesn’t remember anything that happened.
In an age of remakes and reboots, it is only a matter of time before Flight of the Navigator gets an update. Most likely on their forthcoming streaming service Disney+. Until then, the original remains a delightful mix of 80s whimsy with sci-fi adventure that the 80s seemed to do so well. Director Randal Kleiser (Grease) does an admirable job blending practical effects with computer effects, the result might look a little dated in some of the flying scenes, yet the spirit of the movie remains one of optimism. As I haven’t seen this movie in at least 15 years, my memory of it was somewhat hazy. I had forgotten it is a movie of two halves. The first is a slightly uncomfortable family drama with a sci-fi twist, the second is where the movie kicks in to hyperdrive with the introduction of sentient spaceship MAX (Trimaxion Drone Ship). While he’s credited as Paul Mall, that’s Pee-Wee Herman aka Paul Reubens voicing MAX.
The set design for the ship interior is remarkable, and thanks to the new 4K restoration, it looks stunning. The 4K scan is a thing of beauty, Second Sight have done another outstanding job with a beautiful restoration. Much like their recent work with The House That Dripped Blood, and Asylum, Second Second has given cult classics a long-overdue a home entertainment upgrade. Flight of the Navigator might be over 30 years old, but it remains a charming adventure for all ages filled with that infectious upbeat feel that 80s movies seemed to do effortlessly. Jam-packed with special features, Flight of the Navigator is a worthy addition to your Home Entertainment library.