DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily Blu-ray Disc & DVD news and reviews
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/26/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/25/2017
Studio executives place great stock in release dates and it's not unusual to see a big movie announced with a specific release date many months, if not years, in the future. They often gauge the time of year and examine the other major titles which have been slated for that period. However, even the most powerful people in Hollywood can't control what goes on in the world, and there have been several examples of real-life events which have hampered or even cancelled the release of films. When the tragic events concerning the Space Shuttle Challenger occurred on January 28, 1986, one can only imagine the panic which ensued surrounding the summertime release of Spacecamp which was slated for that summer. Bad timing would prove to be only part of the film's problems.
Spacecamp takes place at and was shot at the real "Spacecamp" in Huntsville, Alabama, where teenagers arrive in order to get a sense of what it's like to be an astronaut. As the story opens, we meet Commander Zach Bergstrom (Tom Skerrit), an official at Spacecamp, and his wife, Andie (Kate Capshaw), an astronaut who has once again been bumped from a space shuttle mission and placed on the faculty at Spacecamp. Andie does her best to be cheerful as she welcomes her new recruits -- Kathryn (Leah Thompson), Tish (Kelly Preston), Rudy (Larry B. Scott), Max (Leaf Phoenix), and Kevin (Tate Donovan). Andie must try to get this incredibly diverse group to try and be excited about their roles and work together as a team. This training becomes all the more important when an accident places them all in danger.
Spacecamp is one of those movies which probably looked great on paper. I'm not sure if this is true today, but I know that many of my generation, and the generation before, dreamed to being an astronaut. While the rocket missions of the 1960s and 1970s made space travel look like a bizarre experiment, the advent of the space shuttle program suddenly made it more relatable, as one was simply taking a big plane into space. (I can still remember the excitement over the shuttle and visiting a toy store to get replicas.) Therefore, a movie about kids becoming astronauts should have been a slam dunk. Add in the fact that the movie portrayed a real-life program in which kids could work with the space program and it simply sounds like a recipe for success.
But, the script (which incorporated four writers, one of which worked under an alias), simply relies far too much on cliched plotpoints and stereotypical characters. Kathryn is the brave girl whose already a pilot and dreams of being an astronaut. Tish dresses like a party girl and acts flighty, but is really a genius. (Have you ever met this person in real life?) Kevin is only there to appease his parents and has no interest in learning. Max is the young one who wants to be taken seriously. And Rudy is the black guy. I'm not making that up. He has no distinguishing characteristics.
This group of cardboard cutouts are thrown into an adventure which is at simultaneously predictable, but also oddly off-kilter. Most of this comes from Jinx, the talking maintenance robot which befriends Max. Again, Spacecamp takes place in a real place and features real NASA equipment, but the movie decides to present us with this bizarre, comic-relief robot which sets a nearly fatal disaster into motion. (Jinx has been spoofed on Family Guy at least twice.) This is in addition to Max's obsession with Star Wars and the way in which he weaves references from those films into conversations. Jinx and the Star Wars references are clearly included to make Spacecamp hip and accessible, but they only detract from what should have been a harrowing adventure.
Spacecamp only made back about half of its budget at the box-office. It would have been easy for the producers to blame the Challenger disaster for the film's failure. However, the film's missteps certainly didn't help. Again, a movie about a group of kids getting to fly on the space shuttle is a great idea, but the banal characters and the silly detours take away the action. For Generation X, Spacecamp is an interesting trip down memory lane, but the fact that it's never mentioned when 80s movies are listed should be a tell-tale sign.
Spacecamp convinced me that maintenance robots are dangerous and must be stopped on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing some very mild grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. This transfer does exaggerate some issues though. The soft-focus look of the movie leads to haloes around light sources and the detail involved here reveals the outlines of visual effects insert shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound effects work well here and they never overpower the actors, but one can't help but wonder what this would have sounded like if we could have gotten the full bass of the rocket engines.
The Spacecamp Blu-ray Disc contains only three extras. We get an "Interview with Star Lea Thompson" (11 minutes) where she gives a very frank account of the film's production and doesn't hold back on describing the difficulties in the shooting of the movie. However, she does have fond memories of the cast. "Interview with Director Harry Winer" (18 minutes) allows the filmmaker to discuss his early career and how that lead to him getting the gig on Spacecamp. From there, he talks about his work on the film and the research which went into the production. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long