Back when E.T. was all the rage and a few copycat movies quickly followed from *batteries not included to Mac And Me, Flight Of The Navigator came out and it was obviously seen as not much more than yet another E.T. rip-off.
Luckily, the film was also all kinds of great and arguably even better than Spielberg's movie in some ways.
The film opens with a montage showing dogs catching, or rather attempting to catch, frisbees in what is both a completely irrelevant and completely wonderful opening title sequence. Initially set in the 70's, the plot sees a kid, David (Joey Cramer), wander into the woods at night only to slip and fall before waking up 8 years later in the same spot. Meanwhile, NASA come face to face with a silver, very light walnut-shaped UFO and try to keep the discovery under wraps. That is, until David's mysterious disappearance turns out to be related to that UFO somehow by which point NASA promptly "invites" the boy over for a couple of days so he can be examined and all the alien data in his brain can be recorded. Much to their surprise, however, David jumps into the UFO and flies it as far as possible thanks to the help of a young Sarah Jessica Parker.
Flight Of The Navigator's concept is pretty genius: a young boy travelling the world and through time at break-neck speed in a cool spaceship voiced by Pee-Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens)? Talk about a great idea for a kids' movie! The film itself is stylish and really well made not to mention completely charming thanks to a tight, funny script, a solid cast and a simple yet effective plot full of likeable characters. The special effects are also well worth it as they even include some cool Jim Henson-style puppet-work. There's definitely an E.T. or Starman-esque nostalgic feel to the whole thing but the film definitely has its own unique personality. It's just a sweet, clever, fun movie all the family should enjoy.
Whether you prefer E.T. or Flight Of The Navigator, chances are if you like one, you'll like the other. The latter is a great sci-fi kids movie which deserves more recognition as it's more than just Spielberg-lite fare.
A classic gem.