Review by Michael Jacobson
Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott,
Joaquin “Leaf” Phoenix, Tom Skerritt
Director: Harry Winer
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: March 2, 2004
not important how this happened. What’s
important is, how do we get back home.
we ARE going home.”
has been one
of my favorite family films for about 15 years now, but unfortunately, it’s a
good little picture that never seems to have found its audience.
It suffered the worst timing of any release in film history…a movie
about a space shuttle mishap that sends a group of kids into space, it was
superceded by a real life shuttle disaster when the Challenger exploded
minutes after takeoff just days before the scheduled theatrical debut.
make matters worse, what happened to the real life shuttle was eerily similar to
what happens to it in the picture. The
movie was pushed back months and months, costing the studio millions…yet by
the time it was released, the country still wasn’t in the mood to see it.
is a shame, because I’ve always found it an enjoyable film, with a good cast
of kids playing characters you really care about.
It’s the kind of picture that can fuel any youngster’s imagination,
while at the same time, delivering a strong message about believing in yourself
and working together as a team to make the impossible possible.
of the movie was filmed at the actual SpaceCamp in Huntsville, Alabama…a
helluva place for kids to spend the summer, if your parents have the do-re-mi to
send you there. Owned and operated
by NASA, students come from everywhere to get hands-on astronaut training, using
complex simulators and machines as well as a full curriculum of math and
astronaut-to-be Andy Berkstroom (Capshaw) learns she has been passed over for a
chance to go up, she joins her husband Zach (Skerritt) at SpaceCamp.
There, she instructs a rag-tag group:
Kevin (Donovan), who doesn’t care about the camp, and is only there
because his father wants him there, Kathryn (Thompson), the hot-shot studious
one who wants to be the first female shuttle commander, Tish (Preston), the
airhead with a photographic memory, Rudy (Scott), a young man with a love for
science but not quite the aptitude for it, and Max (Phoenix), the youngest and
the smartest, with the biggest imagination.
don’t seem like the kind of group that can or will ever gel, until fate throws
them in a situation where they have no choice.
Sitting in the cockpit of the shuttle Atlantis during a routine engine
test, a booster rocket failure forces NASA to launch the ship rather than have
it crash and burn on the pad. What
started out as a routine day at SpaceCamp for Andy and her kids becomes the
adventure of a lifetime…and that adventure is getting back home.
film is filled with terrific senses of awe and suspense…what kid’s
imagination wouldn’t be stirred by the thought of going up in a space shuttle?
But at the same time, we never lose sight of the gravity (no pun
intended) of the situation. The kids have gone up in a craft that wasn’t flight ready.
Their oxygen, and their options, are limited.
It’s the kind of situation that brings out true character…and
fortunately, this group, despite their motley appearance, find it within
themselves to work as a team and not give up.
Each of them has a talent, even though not all of them realize it.
When they start to practice what Andy has been teaching them, they begin
to believe in themselves and their ability to do the impossible.
always recommended this movie to families, and I still do…it remains one of my
favorites. I’ve seen it many
times, and am, of course, much older now, but I still find it an easy movie to
slip into. I know the outcome, yet
I still hang on these kids’ fates at every turn.
I credit that to a terrific young cast…had they been just a typically
annoying teen-flick crew, who knows?
they are a talented and believable bunch, who progress as a group beautifully.
They may start out like a crew with whom you’d never want to fly your
space shuttle, but darn it all, if they don’t slowly but surely prove
a good looking disc, despite a non-anamorphic transfer.
I was surprised at how much brighter and clearer the images were than on
my old VHS copy…I wasn’t sure SpaceCamp was the kind of film that
would get a lot of attention in the mastering process, but I was wrong.
Colors are vibrant and natural looking throughout, with no bleeding or
distortions evident. Space scenes
look quite good, save for one or two brief ones (Kevin and Kathryn looking up at
the moon early on, for example) that get a little grungy and grainy looking, but
these are few and fleeting.
original 2 channel surround track is perfectly fine, if not spectacular.
This is a film that might have benefited from one of the studio’s
terrific 5.1 remasters. Here, dynamic range is fair, with a bit of punch coming from
the take-off sequence, and plenty of moments in space where things get very
quiet on the other end of the sonic spectrum.
Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and I noticed no distracting
noise to spoil the presentation.