A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, overall, Explorers depicts smart, curious junior high kids who stumble upon a way to make their dreams of space flight a reality. But there's a scene in which they drink beer, and they work unsupervised with a welding torch and an electric saw as they construct their spaceship. One boy mentions his dead mother; another, preparing for a trip to outer space, writes his will as a precautionary measure. There's also some lower level cursing by kids ("ass," "hell," "pissed") and some sexuality. Younger kids may be scared by a suspenseful scene in which a giant mechanical "spider" frisks the boys after they arrive on the alien spaceship.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Driven by the blueprints he sees in a dream, junior high science fiction junkie Ben (Ethan Hawke), sketches his vision and gives it to best friend and budding scientist Wolfgang (River Phoenix). Before long, Wolfgang and Ben realize they have the design for a computer-controlled force-field bubble which defies gravity and moves at 100 miles an hour. The boys -- joined by tough-guy peer Darren (Jason Presson) -- eagerly construct their own homemade spaceship from scrap parts. Soon, the trio takes their first voyage to the local drive-in. But it turns out that the spaceship isn't entirely under their control: A pirate signal takes over their force field and spirits them away to an alien ship. There they meet two friendly aliens who've learned everything about earthlings and their language from watching television.
Is it any good?
The young stars in this movie give earnest, enthusiastic, and believable performances. EXPLORERS is most notable as the film debut of Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix, who were just kids when they starred in this movie. The film certainly has its moments -- like when the young adventurers achieve liftoff in their homemade spaceship, or when a clever twist is revealed after they encounter a couple of extraterrestrials. But too often the movie feels sluggish and somewhat superficial
The premise leads to a few amusing exchanges between the aliens and the wide-eyed boys. But these scenes feel too long and rather unstructured -- which is a shame, since they should be the highlight of the film. The movie also never quite resolves a subplot involving a sheriff's department helicopter pilot who's investigating the kids and their ship. Still, the young actors turn in fine performances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether movies with older special effects are still entertaining. Can you suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy the story?
Families can also discuss the realities of space flight and the boys' three distinct personalities. How are imaginative "dreamer" Ben, cautious scientist Wolfgang, and practical Darren different from one another? Why do you think they become friends?
What do you think of the fact that the aliens base their opinion of humans on television? What kind of impression would you get of people based just on TV shows?
- In theaters: July 28, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: October 19, 2004
- Cast: Ethan Hawke, Jason Presson, River Phoenix
- Director: Joe Dante
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and action, and a brief scene involving beer.
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