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Space Camp (1986) – DVD Review

Space Camp DVD cover art


Written by: Patrick Bailey, Larry B. Williams, Clifford Green, and Casey T. Mitchell
Directed by: Harry Winer
Starring: Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Joaquin Phoenix, Tate Donovan, and Tom Skerritt

Released by: MGM/UA Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: No

My Advice: Skip it, but fans of the movie might want to own it…

After being stiffed as the pilot on the next shuttle mission, Andie (Capshaw) finds herself yet again a cousellor at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. To make matters worse, this is not the first time she’s been passed over for a mission. Once she gets to Camp, the team of campers assigned to her is anything but cohesive. For starters, Kathryn (Thompson) is way too gung ho about the space program. So much so that she lets her zeal get in the way of succeeding. She befriends Tish (Preston) who, nowadays, would be thrown into the category of ADD, only Tish comes with a photographic memory. Kevin (Donovan) is only there to make his dad happy. The deal was he goes to Space Camp, his dad buys him a Jeep. Then there’s Rudy (Scott), who has the smarts to make it in the astronaut program, but lacks the confidence to really make it happen. Finally, there’s Max (Phoenix), who is actually supposed to be in the younger program, but talks Andie into letting him onto her team because he’s been in junior camp for the past several years.

[ad#longpost]Oh yeah, Max has befriended a robot by the name of Jinx. Jinx is the one that gets them into trouble. In order to help Max get his wish of being in space, Jinx makes it so that an engine test of the shuttle turns into a full launch with Max and his team on board. In order to make it back home alive, the team will have to learn to work together aboard the shuttle.

This is one of those movies that I absolutely loved as a kid. And, yes, I’m probably dating myself, but oh well. I mean, I wore out the VHS copy that I had years ago. Anyway, this is one of those movies that, when you watch it years later, you still like it, but have trouble admitting to other people that you like it. Let’s face it folks–I did–it’s not a very good movie at all. It’s chocked full of cheesy teenage angst and resolves itself way too fast to be a successful story. The characters are paper-thin and the story is so full of holes it would make a better sieve. One of the major holes is the lack of geographical importance with regard to the story.

Anyone with half a brain and a map could see how far apart Huntsville, Alabama is from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Yet, in the movie they are able to drive there in an afternoon. Sorry, but it’s a sticking point. The other really annoying part of the story is the character of Jinx. Not only is the design of the robot boring, the voice is so completely horrible, that I just wanted the robot to be standing under the shuttle when the engines kicked off. Really, if you are going to make the robot one of the major plot devices in the story, wouldn’t you want him to not bore and annoy your audience?

Space Camp crew
Next up, the Armageddon Slow Walk (TM) to the shuttle

The DVD is sparse. There is absolutely nothing on it, which is a downright shame and kind of odd, too: the Space Camp program missed out on an amazing opportunity for some advertising and recruiting. I can remember watching some supplemental material at the time the movie came out: the usual interviews with cast and crew, but there were also some amazing documentaries and featurettes on Space Camp itself. If nothing else, they could do a retrospective of the Space Camp program. You know, kind of a “then and now” kind of thing. There are tons of educational opportunities that are missed here. After all, those of us that loved the movie during our day might have wanted to show this DVD to our young families, right? I mean, after they stopped laughing at us.

My only hope is that MGM will someday release a special edition DVD of this movie with some bonus material attached. Until then, fans of this movie will want to own it. I’m just going to dump this copy in lieu of another one later on.

Kate Capshaw in Space Camp
Kate Capshaw in Space Camp

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1 comment

  • With much of the shooting done on location in Huntsville, its chopped full of local extras. My sister Kory was one of the two final choices to play Andie as a young girl (“John Glenn winked at me!”) – instead a young girl from my church was selected. The theatre professor from Lee High School, Ron Harris, plays the mechanic working under the lunar lander that asks Jinx for a tool. And if you look very hard, you’ll catch two or three glimpses of me wandering the background at 16 sporting a white Miami Vice t-shirt and an equally dated hair cut in the ‘Andie meets her campers’ scenes. I worked hard to find that character’s motivation. (I’m looking for something and I don’t want be edited out, so make sure to look for it behind the main actors in each take.)