Australian Council on Children and the Media

Flight of the Navigator

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Short takes

Not suitable under 6; parental guidance to 9 (scary scenes and supernatural themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Flight of the Navigator
  • a review of Flight of the Navigator completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 May 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to scary scenes, mild adult themes and supernatural themes.
Children aged 6–9 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes, mild adult themes and supernatural themes.
Children over the age of 9 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Flight of the Navigator
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact.
Length 89 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

It is a normal evening in 1978 and 12-year-old Davey (Joey Cramer) goes searching for his younger brother in the woods. He sees a mysterious light shining amongst the trees, but in going to investigate he stumbles down a ravine and loses consciousness. When he comes to, he runs home to discover that he has somehow travelled forward in time, still in the same 12 year-old body and it is now 1985! Davey’s parents (Veronica Cartwright, Cliff De Young) and younger brother (Matt Adler) have all aged and are shocked that Davey has turned up again, not a day older, after being missing for so many years. It is no coincidence that on the very same day that Davey reappears, a sleek and mysterious UFO is discovered in the woods. In hospital, whilst Doctors try to work out just what has happened to Davey, electric probes attached to his head start to communicate with the laboratory computers, drawing out clearly an image of the UFO. NASA quickly takes over and Davey is whisked away to a top-secret laboratory so that NASA officials can get as much information from him as possible. Davey is confused and lonely, and he keeps hearing a mysterious voice calling to him. Although Davey wants to return to his family more than anything, he also is magnetically drawn to the UFO and knows he must escape the NASA facility and find the ship.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Time travel; Aliens; UFOs; Space travel; Being trapped and locked up; Incarceration; Government surveillance; Family.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is no explicit violence in this movie however parents should note the following:

  • Although there is no explicit violence in this film, Davey is locked in a room and under the control and observation of adults. There is a sense of government and police control over his actions which is mildly menacing.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Davey goes walking alone with his dog in the woods at night. Ominous music plays and an eerie light shines through the trees.
  • When Davey returns to his family house, everything looks different and when the door opens, it is not his mother and father, but two complete strangers living in the house. Davey runs around the house in great distress and confusion, trying to find his parents and calling for them.
  • When Davey is reunited with his parents and brother, he is horrified because they have aged 8 years and they no longer look like he remembers them.
  • There are several scenes where Davey is emotional and distressed because all he wants to do is go home to his mum and dad and have life feel normal, but he can’t because he must be held under observation. Nobody will let him go home and he is scared.
  • Davey sometimes has Electric Nodes attached to his head and must sit in a chair as his brain is scanned.
  • Davey starts to hear a deep voice calling to him. Nobody else can hear the voice and it scares him.
  • Davey enters the spaceship and a glowing ball talks to him.
  • Inside the space ship there are specimens from other planets. Although kind of cute, they are all quite scary looking creatures, for example: a giant eye ball, a gooey blob, a creature that gobbles up Davey’s cap. Some very young children might find these creatures scary, but older children may be intrigued and delighted.
  • With Davey inside, the spaceship dives deep down into the ocean.
  • Whilst flying high above the earth, the spaceship suddenly cuts all navigation and starts to plummet downwards towards the ground at terrifying speed. Some tension.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Davey is really disorientated by the time travel and how everything around him has changed. Older children may understand more about the complexities of this situation than younger children and find it more emotionally disturbing.
  • Davey is kept in confinement by NASA. Although he has made a choice to stay there, in the hope that they will help find some answers about why he went missing for 8 years. However, it feels like he is being kept there against his will and he doesn’t know when or how he will see his family again. He is kept in a room with an observation window – a one-way mirror - where two security guards watch him constantly to make sure he doesn’t escape.
  • Children who have had experience of complex medical procedures in their lives, or in the lives of their parents, might find the scenes of Davey in a chair, in hospital with wires and tubes attached to him quite confronting. Nothing bad happens, but Davey is not happy.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coca-Cola
  • McDonalds
  • NASA.

Sexual references

There are mild some romantic references in this movie, including:

  • Davey has a crush on a girl in his neighbourhood. There is a scene where he is looking at her through a telescope in his bedroom. His father comes in and notices what he is doing and talks to him about how to approach her.
  • The housekeeper at NASA tells Davey that he is cute and asks him whether any girl has told him that before. He is coy and says that only his mother has.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is mild some coarse language and name-calling in this movie, including:

  • Bastard
  • Stupid
  • Butt-face
  • Nerd.

In a nutshell

Flight of the Navigator is a fantastic introduction to the Science Fiction genre for kids and a good all-round family film. It has exactly the right balance of tension, fun and fantasy. The movie is not suitable for children under 6 and parental guidance is recommended to 9 because it taps into things that children fear the most, such as separation from parents and getting lost. However, it does manage to resolve these things in a way that is filled with fun, gentle humour, and is quite empowering for children. Although it was released in 1986, it is extremely topical in the times of Covid-19 where many children are experiencing feelings of being ‘trapped’ in lockdown – there is a strong theme of being held captive and powerless, yet the main character gets to escape and ultimately takes his freedom into his own hands and flies free. Some young children may find this film quite exhilarating.

The main messages from this movie are that you can take control of your own destiny and make your own choices and that there are unexplained mysteries in the universe.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Children have the right to make decisions about the way they are treated.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Whether government officials or police have the right to restrict our actions or conduct surveillance. The right to privacy and freedom of movement.

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