Tag Archives: Joey Cramer

Flight of the Navigator (1986, Randal Kleiser)

Flight of the Navigator works on a principal of delayed charm; eventually, it’s got to be charming, right? No, no, it doesn’t. The film’s a series of false starts. The only thing approaching a pay-off is Paul Reubens–voicing an alien spaceship–going into a riff on his “Pee-Wee” routine. It’s not even a good routine. Worse, the film wastes kid lead Joey Cramer’s substantial likability. He’s not great, but he’s not annoying. He’s always sympathetic. Well, until the idiotic conclusion.

Navigator runs ninety minutes. Almost the first hour is about Cramer, missing for eight years, returning to his family. Only Cramer’s the same age; what happened in those missing eight years. For some reason, Howard Hesseman’s NASA scientist thinks it’s got to be linked to the alien spaceship they just discovered. Flight of the Navigator takes place over like three days. The film does a weak job establishing the characters, even weaker after it jumps forward eight years, so it’s hard to sympathize with anyone. You’re not supposed to sympathize with Hesseman, who’s just a jerk. He’s incredibly miscast.

Most of the acting is fine. Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartwright have thin parts as Cramer’s parents, but they’re both fine. Matt Adler’s kind of weak as his now older brother, but with the script, it’s not like Adler was going to be able to do anything with it. Same goes for Sarah Jessica Parker, who’s basically just around to gently flirt with twelve-year-old Cramer and explain the eighties to him.

Technically, the film approaches competent. Director Kleiser tries for grandiose with the first half and fails, but has more success once the spaceship comes into it. Alan Silvestri’s music is lacking. Nothing else stands out. I mean, James Glennon’s photography is boring, but it isn’t bad.

While Flight of the Navigator is still about Cramer reappearing after eight years, it has a far amount of potential. Even during some of the last third’s special effects sequence, it has some left. It’s dwindling, but it’s still there. Until the lame finish, which lacks any dramatic heft. The film’s not long enough and the script’s not good enough to make Cramer’s adventure resonate. Flight of the Navigator could have run fifteen minutes and had the same dramatic impact. It’s slight and not diverting enough.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Randal Kleiser; screenplay by Michael Burton and Matt MacManus, based on a story by Mark H. Baker; director of photography, James Glennon; edited by Jeff Gourson; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, William J. Creber; produced by Robert Wald and Dimitri Villard; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Joey Cramer (David Freeman), Cliff De Young (Bill Freeman), Veronica Cartwright (Helen Freeman), Matt Adler (Jeff), Sarah Jessica Parker (Carolyn McAdams), Howard Hesseman (Dr. Louis Faraday) and Paul Reubens (Max).


RELATED

Advertisements

Runaway (1984, Michael Crichton)

Given the star and the director, it shouldn’t be surprising Runaway is rather conservative. And, given the endless kissing montage over the end credits, it also appears to have been geared toward female viewers (but with Selleck, that one isn’t a surprise either). As science fiction, Runaway is very, very safe. It’s an unexciting safe. It’s even a little sturdy. While Crichton’s choice to cast Gene Simmons is ludicrous, his brand of 1980s futurism is–though obviously budget-conscious–excellent. The robots in the movie have not changed the world, they’re simply new additions to a familiar landscape. Crichton’s always been good with that aspect of science fiction filmmaking, the problems come when he’s got to come up with a plot.

Runaway, for example, does not have much of a plot. It takes place over two or three days, has countless filler sequences of Selleck in peril (in the first twenty minutes, so it seems unlikely he’s in any danger), and is kind of an extended chase story. There are some big plot holes (cops who go missing, spectacular murders unreported), but it gets, predictably, from A to B to C. Along the way, there’s some good acting from Selleck, who both manages not to look embarrassed in the silly future outfit and to maintain some decorum during his scenes with son Joey Cramer. Cramer’s performance is hilariously awful and suggests Simmons might have turned in a better one with some direction, which Crichton was apparently not providing to anyone. Cynthia Rhodes is fine, though her character is absurd. Stan Shaw and G.W. Bailey are both good in smaller roles.

What Crichton manages to do, after a while, is get some good action sequences going. There’s an excellent chase scene and, at the end, he manages to get some solid effect from a wholly predictable (and forecast in the first five minutes) sequence. Crichton’s not a dynamic director–almost every shot is a walking-and-talking shot–but he works really well with rear screen projection. Oddly, those sequences are also the only ones with really impressive work from cinematographer John A. Alonzo. The rest of the time, Alonzo shoots the movie like all they’ve got are fluorescents. Crichton’s composing his shots pre-pan and scan Panavision here, so it’s hard for there not to be a good shot every few minutes.

Most of Runaway hinges on Selleck’s likability, just because there’s very little momentum to the movie. The journey to the near future, which lasts well into the second act, is only so interesting as people are still driving pickup trucks. But for such a colorless narrative, Runaway works all right. It’s dumb, but competent in some interesting ways (though less so in some other–not interesting–ways).

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michael Crichton; director of photography, John A. Alonzo; edited by James Coblentz and Glenn Farr; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Douglas Higgins; produced by Michael I. Rachmil; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Tom Selleck (Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay), Cynthia Rhodes (Officer Karen Thompson), Gene Simmons (Dr. Charles Luther), Kirstie Alley (Jackie Rogers), Stan Shaw (Sgt. Marvin James), G.W. Bailey (Chief of Police), Joey Cramer (Bobby Ramsay) and Chris Mulkey (David Johnson).


RELATED