Film Review: Dr. Giggles (1992)

Also known as: Doctor Giggles (alternative spelling)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1992
Directed by: Manny Coto
Written by: Manny Coto, Graeme Whifler
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff DeYoung, Glenn Quinn, Doug E. Doug

Largo Entertainment, JVC Entertainment Networks, Dark Horse Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry…the Doctor is in…sane” – tagline

I remember how hard the studio was marketing Dr. Giggles when it was coming out. Being that I was in 8th grade, at the time, I didn’t see it in the theater and just planned to wait for it to come out for rental on VHS like most horror movies when I was that age. However, it came and went and I never did rent it.

So nearly thirty years later, I finally checked it out.

To start, it’s not very good. But it’s also not terrible. It’s very middle of the road, predictable and doesn’t make a big enough mark to warrant a film series like so many other slashers with unique villains that came out over the ’80s and ’90s.

That’s not a knock against Larry Drake, who plays the title character. Drake is a multi-time Emmy Award winner and a talented actor in the right role. I’ve always liked him in movies where he’s the villain like the Darkman series or when he’s just simply in a horror movie like Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

Drake really got to shine as the focal point of this picture and he was superb at being creepy. His laugh was great and unique. His character also had a decent backstory, capped off by an incredibly well-crafted scene where the child Dr. Giggles emerges from the womb of his dead mother in the morgue. It’s actually the highlight of the film, if I’m being honest.

The rest of the cast is pretty bad, even if the movie has some notable people in it like a young Holly Marie Combs, Colin Quinn, who played Mark on Roseanne, and Cliff DeYoung, who I will always have a fondness for because of his role as the dad in The Flight of the Navigator. The movie also features Doug E. Doug before he’d become better known in Cool Runnings and Cosby.

Apart from those actors, the rest of the cast is abysmally bad and it drags the movie down, as it relies on throwaway caricatures and tropes for these characters.

This is a forgettable movie and that’s probably why people forgot about it immediately after its release in 1992.

Rating: 5/10

Documentary Review: Life After the Navigator (2020)

Release Date: November 9th, 2020 (UK)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Joey Cramer, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff DeYoung, Howard Hesseman, Randal Kleiser, Matt Adler, Raymond Forchion, Albie Whitaker

Life After Movies, Spare Change Films, Strict Machine, 91 Minutes

Review:

A few years ago, I heard about what had happened with Joey Cramer, the former child actor that was a favorite of mine because of how good he was in The Flight of the Navigator and his few scenes in Runaway.

For those that don’t know, Cramer robbed a bank out of desperation due to his bad drug habit. Upon discovering this, I also learned about his history with prison and drugs and how his life had spiraled out of control in the years since he left acting behind.

Sadly, this isn’t a story that’s too uncommon with child actors who grow up, don’t get work and have to return to a normal life that’s never going to be truly normal due to the level of fame they once had.

I’m happy to say that Joey did turn his life around and this film chronicles that tough journey. You meet his family, friends and get to hear from those who starred alongside him in The Flight of the Navigator. 

This documentary is really two things merged into one. It’s primarily about Joey, his issues and his battle to get better. However, it’s also about the Navigator film and reflects on it, all these years later, as it has become an iconic film, beloved by more than just the Gen Xers that saw it in the theater back in 1986.

All in all, this was a sad but ultimately feel good story. It was cool seeing everyone support Joey and still share their love of the film, as well. I just hope that he can now stay on the right path and keep building towards a better life than the one he lived for the last few decades.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Flight of the Navigator, as well as the documentary Life After Flash.

Film Review: The Craft (1996)

Release Date: April 26th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming, Peter Filardi
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Cliff DeYoung, Christine Taylor, Breckin Meyer

Columbia Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Girls watch out for the weirdos.” – Driver, “We are the weirdos, mister.” – Nancy

Man, I hadn’t seen this in a long time but I used to take a copy home to watch a lot when I worked at a video store in the ’90s. I’ve also seen it on television a bunch of times. But I came across it on my Starz app and thought, “Hmm… I haven’t seen that in ages.” So I decided to fire it up.

The Craft is about four teenage girls that dabble in witchcraft, which was pretty normal for some high school girls when this came out. I went to a few schools and there was always some sort of neo-pagan clique hanging about. I don’t know if that’s still the case because if I hung out around high schools now, I’d get arrested.

These girls take their dabbling to all new levels and their magic starts to work pretty effectively. The jerk guy at school obsesses over one girl, the racist mean girl starts losing her hair, the burnt girl gets healed and becomes a slut, the psycho girl just starts magic murdering people and ocean life. It all culminates in the psycho girl embracing her psycho tendencies and getting into a magic cat fight with the only rational character in the entire group.

The movie is cheesy but it’s the right kind of cheese and now it’s well aged and has a thick layer of nostalgia around the edges. Point being, this was still enjoyable and I was pretty tuned in from start to finish.

The four main actresses all did a good job and Fairuza Balk owned her character’s insanity and gave one of the most memorable performances of her career. In fact, she still kind of frightens me because of this movie.

I thought Robin Tunney also gave one of her best performances, as she was the one beacon of light in the evil witchcraft storm. She had a good presence and was still able to offset some of Balk’s over the top antics and keep things mostly grounded.

The Craft has its hardcore fans. Or, at least, it used to. I don’t hear people talking about it much these days. I was never a hardcore fan but I always thought it was a solid way to spend 101 minutes of my time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror movies: Idle HandsScream and The Faculty.

Film Review: Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Release Date: August 1st, 1986
Directed by: Randal Kleiser
Written by: Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton, Matt MacManus
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Joey Cramer, Paul Reubens, Cliff DeYoung, Veronica Cartwright, Matt Adler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Howard Hesseman

Walt Disney, Producers Sales Organization, Buena Vista Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Compliance!” – Max

Everyone I knew as a kid saw Flight of the Navigator. While it wasn’t a smashing hit, it was loved by many and had its following. However, it doesn’t seem to be as well-remembered as some of the other family-friendly sci-fi flicks of the 1980s.

To start, it is a Disney movie and even though it doesn’t feel like a massive epic, it has groundbreaking special effects and was well-produced in every regard.

Joey Cramer plays twelve year-old David Freeman, a kid who wakes up eight years into his future, where his world is totally different. The role needed a lot of emotion and was probably quite challenging for a twelve year-old but Cramer did a fantastic job. Looking back, I don’t know why this didn’t lead to a lot more work for the kid. He got a few roles after this but nothing too noteworthy.

The story also features an alien ship controlled by a computer named Max. Max is voiced by Pee-wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens. The relationship between David and Max is really what makes this film work. While you root for David to be reunited with his family but ultimately want him to be able to go home to 1978, the real standout thing about this film is the camaraderie between the two main characters. David is depressed and feels lost and desperate while Max feels tremendous guilt for pulling David out of his life.

Apart from Cramer and Reubens, the film features a very young Sarah Jessica Parker, Veronica Cartwright – who I will always love for Alien, as well as WKRP‘s Dr. Johnny Fever himself, Howard Hesseman, who also lit up the screen in Head of the Class and Police Academy 2.

Flight of the Navigator used early CGI techniques to create the alien ship that took David on his journey. It was a metallic seed-shaped structure that could slightly alter its shape based off of what flight mode it was in. Also, the back of the ship would essentially melt open and provide free-floating steps for David to enter and exit the ship. The CGI animation is very similar to what James Cameron would use in 1989’s The Abyss and for the T-1000 in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

While Flight of the Navigator is not a flawless film, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives and it is a fun and emotional journey. Its story is timeless and still effective and kids that I have seen watch it in recent years, all seemed to love it regardless of it feeling somewhat dated.

Flight of the Navigator is a much shorter film than what Disney does nowadays. That being said, it is welcomed, as it doesn’t waste a lot of time and stays on its rails. It gets to the point, packs an emotional punch and delivers a heartfelt happy ending. It doesn’t try to overdo it with razzle dazzle and massive special effects sequences. Frankly, I miss films like this.

Rating: 8/10