Flight of the Navigator (PG)
Caution: potential spoilers.
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in 1986, but I didn't see it until some time later. Probably on The Wonderful World of Disney, which means it would have still been the 80s when I saw it... maybe. But I feel like I didn't see it until even later, possibly on VHS. It may have been that I didn't see it until the 90s. So I really have no idea when I first saw it, even if I want to go with the first thing I said. (I suppose the possibility also exists that I first saw it in the 80s and later saw it again in the 90s, but I sort of doubt it.) Whatever, it's not important. I remember sort of thinking it was kind of stupid, maybe. I don't think I disliked it, but I also don't think I liked it much. Whenever I saw it, I probably felt like it was something I would have enjoyed more when I was younger. (Which wouldn't make much sense if I'd seen it in the 80s.) Anyway, I finally watched it again in 2013, on DVD. And I liked it a bit better than I remembered.
The movie begins on July 4, 1978. Of course we know it's a sci-fi movie and there's gonna be an alien spaceship at some point, and the very first scene is kind of a fake-out... because we see a flying disc that soon turns out to be a Frisbee. There's a contest for dogs catching Frisbees, and at the end of that opening sequence, we meet a 12-year-old boy named David Freeman, who has a pet dog named Bruiser, whom he plans to train to catch Frisbees, to someday enter that competition. We're soon treated to another fake-out... a blimp flying overhead. And later there'll be another fake-out. Man, this movie just doesn't quit trying to fake you out! But I get ahead of myself. Um... David has an 8-year-old brother named Jeff, and they really don't get along. But later that night, David's mom sends him to go meet Jeff, who'd been playing with some friends about a half mile away. She thinks Jeff is too young to be walking home alone. (I'm not sure what she thinks would hurt an 8-year-old that wouldn't hurt a 12-year-old, but whatever.) I'm also not sure why they have to walk through the woods. But anyway... David and Bruiser go through the woods, and soon meet Jeff. But then David follows Bruiser, who's looking over a ravine for some reason. David looks down, falls, hits his head. A few seconds later, he gets up, climbs out of the ravine, and goes home.
The door is locked, and when someone answers the door, he finds the home occupied by an older couple who are not his parents. They call the police, and discover that David's name was on a missing person report, filed in 1978... a fact which is very confusing to them. They take him to the home of the people who had filed the report, who turn out to be his parents, though they're living in a new house. And they look a bit older. David faints, and wakes up in a hospital. He soon learns that it's 1986; he's been missing for eight years, but he hasn't aged, and has no memory of where he's been. And his little brother is now four years older than him. (But from this point on, the two of them get along much better than they used to.) The doctors keep David in the hospital to run tests and try to figure out what the heck is going on.
Meanwhile, a crashed spaceship has been found and NASA has taken possession of it. It seems to have no openings, and they can't even scratch the thing. Back at the hospital, David is talking to a psychologist or something, while his head is connected to a computer. And his brain communicates with the computer without his knowledge, producing all kinds of information he isn't consciously aware of, including a schematic that looks like the spaceship. Somehow NASA gets a printout of that (I have no idea why or how). So they want David to come with them. He doesn't want to at first, but a scientist named Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman) convinces him to come to the base for a couple of days. There, he is befriended by an intern named Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker). And the scientists again hook his brain up to computers and ask him questions he doesn't know the answers to, but the answers are displayed on the computers anyway. Which totally freaks him out. And there's so much data that Faraday decides they need to keep him for more than two days. When David finds out about that, he asks Carolyn to get in touch with his parents.
And I should say that before he even went to the base, he'd been hearing a voice in his head that he didn't understand. It finally becomes clear on the base, and leads him to the hangar where the spaceship is being kept. The ship opens for him, and he meets an AI that he calls Max. Max explains what happened to David (which is something Faraday had pretty much theorized already, himself). Aside from the explanation for what happened to David's missing years, Max also explains that David's head contained star charts which Max had lost from his own databanks because of the crash or whatever. (Which means David is now sort of the ship's navigator.) So Max needs to retrieve the data from his head. Max ends up getting pretty much everything David knows, not just the alien knowledge that had been implanted. After that Max starts talking differently. (Basically, he talks like Pee-wee Herman, a character I doubt very much that David was aware of. And now I notice on Wikipedia that Max was actually voiced by Paul Reubens, though he was credited as Paul Mall. Kinda weird, because I didn't actually think the voice sounded like Pee-Wee, just the manner of speaking.) Um... and I kind of feel like Max's new personality was what I disliked about the movie when I saw it originally, but it didn't bother me as much this time, possibly because I like Paul/Pee-wee more now than I did when I was younger.
More importantly, the movie is about the trauma of the bizarre situation David finds himself in, more than about silliness or special effects. (The special effects were pretty good for the 1980s, though. And I lol'd at a line that a guy named Al had at one point.) Anyway, David and Max do some flying around on the ship, which is fun I guess, but what I liked best about the movie were the dramatic aspects. And I don't want to say any more about what happens or how it all ends. It really was a decent movie, just not something I feel the need to watch more than once every 20 or 30 years, I guess.
Oh, and on an unrelated note, when Freaks and Geeks aired in 1999, I remember thinking that Sam reminded me of David. But I was looking for the resemblance when I watched the movie this time, and I didn't really see it. *shrug*