[box cover]

Space Camp

Like The Goonies, Space Camp is one of those cheesy '80s classics you can't genuinely enjoy unless you were about ten the first time you saw it. In a theater. In 1986. Because if you missed the orbital adventures of a motley teen crew (including Brat Pack B-listers Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Kelly Preston, and Joaquin Phoenix — back when he was still known as "Leaf") and their plucky teacher (Kate Capshaw) the first time around, chances are you won't properly appreciate their beautiful, predictable corniness now. It's obvious from the get-go — as the main characters gather for a summer of learning, NASA-style — that director Harry Winer and screenwriters W.W. Wicket and Casey T. Mitchell relied heavily on the Standard Teen Movie Playbook. There's Kevin (Donovan), the cocky, rule-breaking stud; Kathryn (Thompson, fresh from the success of Back to the Future), the uptight high-achiever; Tish (Preston), the bubbly hippie-chick; Rudy (Larry B. Scott), the ambitious token to diversity; and Max (Phoenix), the earnest, round-cheeked little kid with a Star Wars fixation who just wants the big guys to like him. Standing in as mother hen is Andie (Capshaw, in a bad wig), a lifelong space-lover who's had her astronaut ambitions thwarted one too many times. But — surprise! — she gets her chance after all, when Max's robot buddy turns a routine shuttle exercise into a bona fide launch, and Andie and the kids have to figure out how to get back home. And, since no '80s movie about pilots of any kind would be complete without him, we get Tom Skerritt, too, as Andie's husband Zach, who supervises the unexpected mission from the NASA control room. Once you've come to terms with Space Camp's obvious characters and plot and decided to ignore the gaping logic holes — who in their right mind would let a bunch of kids anywhere near a space shuttle that was going to have its engines fired? — there's actually a lot to enjoy. Of the many teen movies that glutted the screen mid-decade (thanks, John Hughes), Space Camp is one of the few that eschewed comedy in favor of adventure, and it's a nice switch-up within the genre, offering some genuine moments of suspense. And the young actors do what they can with their limited roles; Preston is charming as Tish, and Thompson's Kathryn is almost Lisa Simpson-like in her steadfast desire to do well and succeed, making her the kind of pop culture role model more bright teen girls could use. For '80s aficionados, a Space Camp/Goonies double feature might just be the perfect Saturday night in; for everyone else, well… at least you've been warned. MGM presents the film in a clean widescreen transfer (1.85:1) with clear Dolby 2.0 Surround audio (English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available). No extras; keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page