Explorers Movie Review

A terrific little kid flick, I loved Explorers as a youth, even though I had no idea at the time that it would bring us Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in their pre-star incarnations.

It's quite a juicy setup: Thanks to the power of dreams, young Ben (Hawke) and Wolfgang (Phoenix -- yes, a hippy kid is playing a German) invent the impossible: A sphere of energy that can travel at extreme speeds through space when connected to an Apple IIc and a 9-volt battery. (That's nothing compared to what they invent later: a machine that spontaneously generates oxygen!) Convinced that they're destined for greatness, they team up with local outcast Darren (Jason Presson), who gets them into the junkyard where they obtain a Tilt-A-Whirl car for use in their spaceship.

Abruptly the film takes a turn for the strange when they find themselves whisked into space and greeted by aliens with secrets of their own -- I'd hate to spoil it all, but the fun part is that they've learned everything they know about earth by watching TV. Everything they say is a quote from a television show or a reference to one: The film's best line has alien Wak (Robert Picardo) wondering what was so special about "that little kid" on Lassie that he deserved his own show. "Sure, he can roll over..."

Joe Dante has made more classic films, but none so kid friendly and few with as damning a message about commercialism and media overexposure. Modern viewers will probably appreciate seeing what Hawke and Phoenix looked like in 1985. It's especially gratifying to see them both playing hardcore geeks. Also fun are the aliens -- no attempt at all is made to make them look "real;" instead the rubber suit is milked to full effect. Picardo also plays double duty in the film, playing "Starkiller" on the film-within-a-film that plays at the drive-in theater which, naturally, gets destroyed along the way.


Now on DVD, the disc adds two short additional scenes to the feature.


Explorers Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 1985


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