SpaceCamp (1986)

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SpaceCamp (1986)

Post  BoG on Thu Jun 04, 2015 1:05 am

SpaceCamp refers to a science camp for teens that had been set up 4 years prior to the start of this film (based on a real camp in Alabama). The camp focuses on NASA space technology and runs during the summers. Obviously, this description means it's more of an educational camp than the standard summer camps where kids run around on the grass and play. Supposedly, these are all kids who are brighter than the norm. Kate Capshaw stars as an actual astronaut, though she had just been passed up for a space mission and is kind of stuck instructing at this camp with her husband, played by Tom Skerritt.

This film is geared towards the younger viewer - I think obviously - since many adult viewers would not find it very interesting to watch a bunch of teens and their escapades. The main group of kids are kind of a standard complement: the smart-ass (Tate Donovan), the eager-beaver smarty (Lea Thompson), the pretty flake (Kelly Preston), and the African American goofball (Larry Scott).  There's also a younger member who belongs in the junior camp but Capshaw allows him to stay for some reason, unless he messes up (he's played by a very young Joaquin Phoenix, then credited as Leaf Phoenix). There's also a small robot, looking like a ball with legs on wheels.

It's this small robot which veers the film into all-out sci-fi escapism - the robot is apparently possessed of a rudimentary a.i. and is given free reign to move about the camp and do whatever it wants. It facilitates the actual launch of a space shuttle, with Capshaw and all the kids on-board, so that the robot's young friend can realize his dream of going into orbit. Though it sounds exciting, this launch was not planned, so the shuttle's occupants suddenly find themselves dealing with a life-or-death situation in orbit, something they weren't prepared for.

This ends up like a juvenile version of the more serious 'crisis-in-orbit' film Marooned (1969). Since this is geared towards a young crowd, it's a safe bet that everyone will come through all right (unlike the older film), but the story also makes sure that the youngsters are mostly sympathetic characters, so we care and get a bit concerned as they face the various life threatening problems, such as running out of air. There's some tension in the final act as we wonder how they will make it down. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10

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