Picks and Pans Review: Spacecamp

updated 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Welcome to Little League for the shuttle set, a summer camp for boys and girls who want to study escape velocities instead of arts and crafts and take their swimming lessons in midair. Based on the real U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., this film is about a group of campers who get launched into space accidentally. The characters are pulled from the Hollywood cliché bin. There's a rebellious type, played by newcomer Tate Donovan, who falls for a booksmart tomboy, Lea Thompson. They team with Kelly Preston, as a Valley Girl, and Larry B. Scott, a technical wiz lacking in self-confidence. Add an overly precocious kid, Leaf Phoenix, whose best friend is a sympathetic, do-all robot so derivative it ought to be called ET-D2. They're all babysat by Kate Capshaw, as an astronaut-teacher, and Tom Skerritt, as Capshaw's no-nonsense husband. The dialogue and the comic bits are predictable. So is Donovan's attempt to court Thompson. Then an improbable glitch sends the crew—and the movie—into orbit. The kids and Capshaw have to try to bring the shuttle back to earth before their oxygen runs out. Despite the contrivances—everything that can go wrong does—first-time director Harry Winer makes good use of the likable cast and fine special effects. He even manages to slip in some lessons about relationships, roles and growing up. If you can hang on through its long countdown, Space-Camp turns into an enjoyable school's-out trip. (PG)

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