Two Adventure Films from Disney
Flight of the Navigator (November 25/10)
Innocuously entertaining, Flight of the Navigator follows 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) as he briefly loses consciousness after stumbling down a small hill and subsequently wakes up eight years later. Given that the boy doesn't seem to have aged a day, NASA scientists - led by Howard Hesseman's Dr. Faraday - are extremely interested in figuring out just what happened to David (and where he disappeared to during that time). David's return also coincides with the appearance of a seemingly impenetrable spaceship, though it's not long before the scrappy youngster finds himself piloting the craft alongside a sarcastic computer named Max (Paul Reubens). It's an intriguing sci-fi premise that's generally employed to middling, kid-oriented effect by director Randal Kleiser, as the film, which unfolds primarily from David's perspective, contains an ongoing emphasis on elements designed to capture (and sustain) the interest of younger viewers. This is never more true than in the scenes set aboard the futuristic spacecraft, which tend to involve David teaching Max how to behave more "human" (ie David shows Max how to groove along to The Beach Boys). Cramer's affable performance is matched by Reubens' entertainingly off-the-wall turn as Max, and though the whole thing vanishes from one's memory moments after it concludes, Flight of the Navigator is nevertheless a watchable bit of family entertainment that will likely thrill younger viewers.
The Sword in the Stone (November 25/10)
Well animated yet thoroughly tedious, The Sword in the Stone details the early relationship between Arthur and Merlin - with a specific emphasis on the latter's efforts at preparing the former for his rule as England's King. Director Wolfgang Reitherman has infused The Sword in the Stone with an almost astonishingly deliberate pace that prevents the viewer from, at any point, connecting with the material, and there's little doubt that the movie's less-than-enthralling atmosphere is compounded by Bill Peet's unapologetically episodic screenplay. The subsequent emphasis on Arthur and Merlin's hopelessly dull exploits is nothing short of disastrous, as the film's entire midsection seems to consist solely of one utterly pointless stand-alone sequence after another (ie Arthur and Merlin frolic through the forest disguised as squirrels, Arthur attempts to fly while transformed into a bird, etc, etc). The impressive animation and likeable characters are, as a result, rendered entirely moot, and it's impossible not to wonder just which demographic the film has been geared towards (ie the lack of action will bore small children, while adults will find themselves rolling their eyes at the pervasive silliness on display). By the time Arthur finally does yank the sword from the stone - which, incidentally, doesn't occur until the film's closing minutes - The Sword in the Stone has certainly cemented its place as a truly forgettable entry within Disney's animated body of work.