❉ For anyone who grew up with The Flight of the Navigator, this documentary is impossible to resist.
“Filmmaker Lisa Downs’ emotionally affecting new film paints a portrait of a wayward youth who caught a serious unlucky streak after getting the opportunity every aspiring actor dreams of getting at an early age… Joey Cramer’s life took a major downward spiral, with Downs’ film highlighting the hardest parts of his journey while also showcasing some strong moments of personal redemption along the way.”
The Flight of the Navigator is one of those seminal films for people who experienced their childhood years in the 1980s, and over the decades, this charming film has found new fans as a result of the cult following that the movie has developed. Life After the Navigator, the new documentary from the makers of the acclaimed Life After Flash, explores the tragic life of former child acting star Joey Cramer, who received the role of a lifetime, when at the age of 12, he was cast as David Freeman in 1986’s The Flight of the Navigator.
Filmmaker Lisa Downs’ emotionally affecting new film paints a portrait of a wayward youth who caught a serious unlucky streak after getting the opportunity every aspiring actor dreams of getting at an early age. And after some appearances in a few more features and TV projects, Cramer’s life took a major downward spiral, with Downs’ film highlighting the hardest parts of his journey while also showcasing some strong moments of personal redemption along the way.
For anyone who grew up with The Flight of the Navigator in constant home-viewing rotation, this upsetting yet uplifting piece of documentary filmmaking will be impossible to resist; it takes you back down memory lane while showing new sides to life’s unpredictable sense of momentum. So when the media started discussing Cramer’s 2016 arrest for his involvement in a bank robbery in British Columbia, many people were naturally shocked. And what Downs did so well in her film was discuss how Cramer’s life ended up on the track that it did, detailing the many familial incidents (his upbringing was far from “traditional” in any sense of the phrase) that likely played a part in his ill-considered decision making process. All of this is intermixed with fantastic interviews with key members from the Flight of the Navigator team, all of whom shower Cramer and the rest of the crew with love and praise.
Director Randal Kleiser (Grease, The Blue Lagoon, Big Top Pee-wee) shares some fantastic production stories, as do the special effects supervisors, and various supporting actors from the film, including Cliff De Young, Veronica Cartwright, Raymond Forchion, Matt Adler, and Howard Hesseman. The 1980s were a special time for the “kids on bikes” sub-genre of sci-fi/action-dramas that populated movie screens, and then which hit huge pay-dirt on VHS. An entire generation of kids grew up on films such as The Goonies, The Monster Squad, E.T., Explorers, D.A.R.Y.L., The Last Starfighter, Gremlins, My Science Project, and many others, and The Flight of the Navigator sits comfortably within that list of titles as a quality piece of nostalgic entertainment that still holds up by modern standards. Life After the Navigator will serve as a cathartic piece for many, as Cramer’s struggles will be universally felt for some viewers; it’s that rare piece of work that simultaneously entertains and enlightens.
❉ ‘Life After the Navigator’ (2020). Writer/Director: Lisa Downs. Stars: Joey Cramer, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff De Young. BBFC Rating: 15. Running time: 1h 31min. Release details: BluRay – region free discs, over 70 mins bonus material plus 12-page collectors booklet. Ships worldwide: Order from www.lifeafterthenavigator.com. Amazon Buy/Rental – worldwide from 9 December 2020. Amazon Prime, plus other platforms – worldwide from 1st Feb 2021.
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.