If, like me, you're a child of the eighties, you'll remember a whole slew of children's films that inspired us. From 'Labyrinth' and 'E.T.', to 'Goonies' and 'The Monster Squad'.
I own a lot of them on DVD and Blu Ray, but I caught one on TV a few days ago that I had (sort of) forgotten about. Who remembers 'Flight of the Navigator'? A young boy disappears in a forest and finds himself waking up eight years later with no knowledge of where he was. Long story short, it turns out he ended up with all the star-charts of a UFO in his head. Of course, the UFO wants them back... (Believe it or not, I still have one of the original posters from its VHS rental release!)
What follows is a wonderful little adventure crammed with mystery, humour and excitement. Watching in retrospect, the story feels surprisingly straight forward and personal. I don't want to imply it was lacking in any way, quite the opposite. The difference is that unlike many modern films, it does exactly what it says on the tin. This isn't an ensemble piece about a group of kids, or a film intended to lead into sequels. It's a straight-up feel-good adventure that speaks to the child in all of us.
It's difficult to see a film like this working with today's audiences, who expect all sorts of angst and drama with overblown action scenes. I would imagine that if released today, the critics would complain about the lack of back story or lament that the UFO didn't have a terrible hidden agenda.
I say forget all that, and enjoy it for what it is. While writing children's science fiction it serves as a wonderful reminder about how mystery and wonder can be created without the need to always be 'bigger and better'.
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