Coming on the heels of the space shuttle disaster, "SpaceCamp," a teen adventure movie set on the shuttle, is a kind of landmark of exquisite bad timing. And that's the most intriguing thing about it.
The movie assembles a group of kids out of central casting - the Valley Girl (Kelly Preston) who turns out to be a mental whiz; the rebel (Tate Donovan); the nerd who befriends a NASA robot (Leaf Phoenix); the girl with stars in her eyes (Lea Thompson) who wants to be a pilot; and so forth.
Den mother to this gaggle is Andie Bergstrom, an astronaut played by Kate Capshaw, an actress who makes weightlessness seem redundant.
So the movie plods through a full 40 minutes of needless exposition, till we get to the central crisis - the nerd's robot, in an act of misguided friendship, sends the kids into space. What follows is every trick in the suspense book, as the kiddie crew battles a lack of oxygen, a lack of radio and a lack of expertise.
The script (by W. W. Wickert and Casey T. Mitchell) is a botch, schematically structured and given to dialogue on the level of "It's a bummer, man." First time director Harry Winer has liitle sense of pace or shapeliness, and his young cast is all over the place: the movie is shot (by William Fraker) in a style that is banal at best, and the special effects work is often routine, sometimes poor.
Composer John Williams has added a fine, soaring score, but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or for that matter, pretty much any ear.
And while we're at it, don't send your daughters to this one. The moral of "SpaceCamp' is that the young rebel must take command, while the girl pilot must learn to be his helpmate. As Gloria Steinem might say "Hey, fellas - blast off."