(director: Randal Kleiser; screenwriters: story by Mark H. Baker/Michael Burton/Matt MacManus/Lawrence Pooch & Douglas Day Stewart; cinematographer: James Glennon; editor: Jeff Gourson; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Joey Cramer (David Freeman), Paul Reubens (Max, Voice of Ship), Veronica Cartwright (Helen Freeman), Howard Hesseman (Dr Faraday), Sarah Jessica Parker (Carolyn McAdams), Matt Adler (16 year old Jeff), Cliff De Young (Bill Freeman), Albie Whitaker (8 year old Jeff), Richard Liberty (Mr. Howard); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Robby Wald/Dimitri Villard; Walt Disney Pictures; 1986)

“Appealing children’s sci-fi fantasy film, that follows the squeaky-clean Disney formula.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Randal Kleiser(“Honey, I Blew Up The Kids”/”Big Top Pee-Wee”) directs this appealing children’s sci-fi fantasy film, that follows the squeaky-clean Disney formula. It’s written as a quirky but friendly family film by Michael Burton and Matt MacManus.

On July The Fourth, 1978, in Fort Lauderdale, 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is sent by his parents Helen (Veronica Cartwright) and Bill Freeman (Cliff De Young) to bring home for supper his bratty 8-year-old brother Jeff (Albie Whitaker). In the woods David slips in a ditch and is knocked unconscious when his brother jumps out of a tree, hoping to scare him, and awakens unchanged in 1986, eight years later. The police reunite him with his loving parents and now 16-year-old brother (Matt Adler), who have aged and live at a new address. When NASA officials investigate, they discover David was kidnapped by aliens in their flying saucer and they bring him to their maximum security science research institute to find out what knowledge the kid has of his E.T. experience after learning from brain scans on him that he was the navigator of a more advanced computerized spacecraft. Leading the NASA investigation is the always bewildered looking Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman) and assigned to bring him meals is the flighty intern Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker), who works with a robot named Ralph. The kid escapes his confinement when learning NASA lied to him and plan to keep him locked-up for experimental purposes, to pick his brain, for more than the 48-hours promised his parents. As a result the kid schemes with the sympathetic but goofy intern to escape by hiding inside the robot. David then returns to the spacecraft to get answers about his voyage. On the spaceship he’s befriended by Max (Paul Reubens), a computerized voice that programmed David to be the navigator so that his remote planet can study the inferior earth people by observing him. It’s learned that Max’s home is 560 light years away but by traveling faster than the speed of light, the journey took them only 2.2 hours. The two bond, go for a ride in the flying saucer to Tokyo and return to David’s new home in Fort Lauderdale. The confused kid feels out-of-place in a world he doesn’t recognize anymore, and finds he must decide whether to stay with his parents or skip town in the spacecraft.

There’s not enough imagination invested to pass it off completely as an adult fantasy film, but if you can bear cute and cuddly films that feature feisty children and playful dogs as main attractions you can’t go wrong here with this kiddie charmer.