When the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred the movie “Collateral Damage”was pulled from release, to be postponed for months after the incident. It’s also quite common for television stations to pull a scheduled showing of a disaster movie when a real-life disaster occurs. However, there is perhaps no more glaring example of bad timing having an adverse affect on a movies chances than SPACECAMP.
It’s 1986 and the United States feels pretty good about itself. It’s clearly winning the Cold War and under the Reagan administration the country feels strong and prosperous. The U.S. also seems to be winning in the space race too with the first teacher set to go up on a shuttle mission and a movie on a group of kids being accidentally sent into space due to be released among a slate of fun summer movies.
Yet all that changed on Jan. 28, 1986 when the United States (along with the rest of the world) is rocked by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Initially scheduled for a June release date the family movie “SpaceCamp” is pushed back into the doldrums of the fall, it seems the country is not able to stomach a movie that makes light of the dangers of space travel when the country is in the shadow of a real-life disaster.
This was highly unfortunate and the lack of box office has meant that this movie has been mostly forgotten. Sure, there is no Oscar worthy performances here and the script seems to be somewhat sophomoric at times, but it is entertaining in its execution, with a great soundtrack by the legendary John Williams and it has an appealing cast headed by the gorgeous Lea Thompson (from the Back to the Future movies) and (future wife of Steven Spielberg and female lead in the second Indiana Jones movie) Kate Capshaw. Also featured is the always excellent Tom Skerritt as Cmdr. Zach Bergstrom..
The movie follows four teens (Thompson, Larry B. Scott, Kelly Preston and Tate Donovan) and one pre-teen Max (Joaquin Phoenix – yes, you read that right) who get launched into space after a small robot decides to make Max’s dream of being in space a reality.
In the space shuttle for a look-see the teens (along with their instructor playes by Capshaw) must launch after a crisis with the solid fuel boosters is manufactured by the good intentions of the robot (incidently, this was also a cause of the real-life Chalenger disaster).
Truth be told Max is an annoying character and the presence of the robot obtrusive and also annoying. But the movie as a whole is mildly diverting and entertaining. Thompson never looked more appealing and it was this movie (not the Back to the Future trilogy) that led me as a 15-year old to develop a teenage crush on the actress.
The movie has its adreneline rish moments, its suspense and excitement. It’s a pure popcorn movie to sit back and enjoy on a rainy Saturday. It’s not high class entertainment, but then again it was never meant to be.
Unfortunately the DVD is lacking in special features. Hopefully, this will be rectified by the studio soon.
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I remember flipping through the channels at home and came across a preview for this on HBO. I sat down and watched it. I was hooked! When I saw at the end that it was filmed at the US Space Camp, I ran to the Post Office to look up Huntsville, AL’s ZIP code and I sent a letter off. I got info. I worked hard the summer of ’88. I was only 12 but everything I earned went towards my trip to Space Camp in Florida (which had just opened that year).
I remember the trip down there by van with my dad and two bothers. All the way from southern Minnesota to Florida by van. My brother quizzed me on every system of the shuttle and I wound up being Commander of my team.
What’s this got to do with the movie? Well, if not for this movie, I never would have gone there. This movie inspired me to reach beyond what I think I can do and ‘reach for the stars’. This movie taught me that anything is possible. I loved this movie then, but today I understand even more what it did for me. Great movie, great story.
Space Camp is about a group of youngsters attending the summer school of the title. During their time there they learn about becoming astronauts, NASA, the space programme etc. There are the usual teenage conflicts between some members of the group and authority.
When they get the chance to actually sit in a Shuttle whilst tests are made they think that is the ultimate adventure. Unfortunately a robot called JINX who has befriended Max (a very young Joaquin Phoenix), decided to help Max get into space for real and ensures the Shuttle is actually launched. This is where the group realise what adventure really is!
Formulaic movie with no real surprises but still quite a good film to watch, particularly for the youngsters. There are no extras (not even subtitles for the deaf) but it’s a low enough price to forgive that.