Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Dana Ivey, Robert Picardo, Bobby Fite, Brooke Bundy, Dick Miller, Mary Kay Place
Written by: Eric Luke
Directed by: Joe Dante
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and action, and a brief scene involving beer
Running Time: 109
Date: 07/12/1985

Explorers (1985)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Spaced Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following the success of Gremlins, director Joe Dante attempted another summer hit with Explorers. All the elements were in place: three boys build a spaceship and discover alien life. It even featured the young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix in leading roles. But somehow it just didn't catch on. Perhaps Dante put a bit too much of himself in there, with too many obscure references to sci-fi movies and cartoons. No matter, for those of us who were kids like these, Explorers hits the spot.

Ben (Hawke) has a dream about flying and sees a kind of circuit board. He draws it and gives it to his friend Wolfgang (River Phoenix), who builds it. Before long, they have the engine for a spaceship. Along with new friend Darren (Jason Presson), they build a spaceship out of scrap and are off (they make a quick stop at a drive-in, of course, before heading to the stratosphere). As usual, Dante crafts a superior entertainment, combined with his own particular brand of satire and fandom. Jerry Goldsmith provided the adventurous score. Dante's next was the even better, but equally underrated Innerspace.

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