When Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capshaw) was a little girl, she dreamed of getting up into space as an astronaut, but now she is grown up and married, although she works for NASA she still doesn't make the grade in the eyes of her superiors and remains resolutely Earthbound. As it's summer, she is teaching at the SpaceCamp, a school for budding young scientists and space pilots to attend, and her latest arrivals are assembling to await further orders. One of them is Kathryn (Lea Thompson), who reminds her of herself at that age, but none of her charges have any idea of the adventure that awaits...
SpaceCamp was intended as an item of entertainment to get kids interested in space travel and drum up interest in the actual holiday centre, but come its release date, it hit a snag. That snag being that a space shuttle of the kind featured prominently in the film exploded, and that was the kind of bad publicity that could sink a movie that depended on shuttle malfunctions to get its plot going. When it was put out a few months later, the damage had been done and the potential audience were not feeling too optimistic about the whole space programme.
Nevertheless, this was also the age of home video and after a while the disasters were at least put to the back of people's minds and the film picked up a following among those whose cinematic diet included large helpings of cheese. In effect, the drama here is on the level of a Saturday morning cartoon with "improving" qualities, so be prepared for some self-empowerment lessons to be injected into your brains as you watch it. To add to that T.V. feel, there's a supposedly cute robot called Jinx and he's voiced by expert funny voices man Frank Welker.
It's the robot who is responsible for the kids being blasted into space, as if it were not far-fetched enough, because his new friend, the youngest member of the party, Max (played by a Joaquin Phoenix so young he's still called Leaf), is obsessed with Star Wars and fancies himself as the next Luke Skywalker. It takes almost half the running time for the shuttle to launch, and in the meantime we have to endure relationship scenes such as Kathryn clumsily romanced by scallywag Kevin (Tate Donovan), or a sequence where they go into the simulator to act out being the crew only to be told by Andie that they are "all dead" due to their arguing (too soon!).
But it is Jinx who really jeopardises their lives when he strikes up a deal with the Mission Control computer and sets up a malfunction that forces a launch with our heroes inside - they thought they were going on a tour, but no, they now have to fly the vehicle. What follows is some frankly unbelievable shenanigans with the oxygen running out and an attempt to get some more because the unfinished space station orbiting the world happens to have some handy tanks of the stuff attached to its frame. Along the way, there's a whole load of life lessons for the kids to learn, mostly of the team building variety, before they naturally have to get back home. Unlike real life, there's no doubt that we will be awarded with a happy ending, and this makes SpaceCamp the equivalent of comfort food for eighties movie buffs. Music by John Williams.