Space Camp



Teen dramedy about space shuttle never lifts off.
  • Review Date: June 23, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1986
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Teens break curfew, are disrespectful of space camp program, and one another's abilities, but repeated admonishments about the importance of teamwork finally sink in.


Younger boy in bullying incident that ends without physical injury, but one of his possessions is broken.


Teen couple flirts and kisses.


Both campers and instructors swear in stressful situations.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Ground-based mission control specialists smoke during crisis.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie revolves around a perilous mission on the Space Shuttle, and in light of the Challenger and Columbia disasters, both the tension and the comedy seem inappropriate. Teen campers sneak away from dorms, and a motivated, capable girl learns an overly harsh lesson about leadership.

Kids say

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What's the story?

In SPACECAMP, filmed on location at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, a motley crew of campers led by an ambitious astronaut must overcome their inexperience when they are mistakenly launched into space without adequate training or supplies. Relying on ingenuity, courage, and a helping hand from the ground-based Mission Control, the crew of five includes teens Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan, and Joaquin Phoenix when he was still young enough to be called Leaf.

Is it any good?


Of the movie's many problems, the worst is timing; it was released six months after the Challenger mission ended in disaster, and nothing about the threat of an inadvertent shuttle launch seems funny or entertaining. The fact that the mistaken launch follows a series of highly implausible actions by a robot who sounds like a cross between E.T. and R2D2 just adds to the misery. The movie is a 1980s set piece, with references to nuclear annihilation, Star Wars, and one "Whip me, Beat me, Take away my charge card!" from Preston, who dresses like Madonna in her "Lucky Star" years.

One place where the movie gets it right is in its respect and awe of the American space program, too often relegated to the back of public consciousness. The NASA training facility and mission control, as well as details of the shuttle's flight, may captivate young astronauts in training.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the sequence of events that lead the campers into actual space flight; is anything about that realistic? In light of shuttle disasters, what precautions do you think are in place to prevent accidental launches? Which characters exhibit the most promising leadership qualities in the crew?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 6, 1986
DVD release date:March 2, 2004
Cast:Joaquin Phoenix, Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan
Director:Harry Winer
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Topics:Adventures, Space and aliens
Run time:107 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byLowe's man January 9, 2014

could've been better

The storyline is very well-intentioned. When the teen campers are accidnetally launched in space, it's up to them to put what little training they had to practice. In the process they learn to work as a team. This mishap also forces them to do a little memory work. In short, their learning is put to the test. Too bad the movie is lame when put to the screen. If only the acting and writing had been a little bit better this would've been a good movie. Also this movie is a bit too scary for children under 9.
Adult Written byChuck Reid March 17, 2012

Pretty good movie.

This movie is funny and really cool.Buy it or rent it and enjoy! You'll thank me later.


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