SpaceCamp is a 1986 American space adventure film based on a book by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams and inspired by the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Directed by Harry Winer from a screenplay by Clifford Green (as W. W. Wicket) and Casey T. Mitchell, the film stars Kate Capshaw, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, and Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix).
The film was panned by critics and is famous for being a "marketing nightmare," as it was released less than five months after the Challenger accident of January 28, 1986, that killed all seven on board (although filming was completed before the disaster occurred). The film performed poorly at the box office, grossing less than $10 million in the US. A rewrite of the book, released to coincide with the movie, mentioned the Challenger disaster.
SpaceCamp received mixed to negative reviews with only 40% of critics giving it positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Roger Ebert gave it a one and half star rating and saying that "Our thoughts about the Space Shuttle will never be the same again, and our memories are so painful that SpaceCamp is doomed even before it begins." Variety says that "SpaceCamp never successfully integrates summer camp hijinks with outer space idealism to come up with a dramatically compelling story", while James Sanford of the Kalamazoo Gazette responds "Not exactly out of this world". Website At-A-Glance gave the film an even worse review, "It's tough to accept this movie's premise. A bunch of kids are given a tour of the Space Shuttle as NASA is testing its engines. An accident happens, and they, along with their guide, are launched into space. Once up there, can they be talked back down? Add an annoying, seemingly sentient robot into the mix. Add the standard "two dimensional character development" arc, where each member of the cast overcomes his or her single character trait/flaw by the end of the story. Add gobs of sap, gushiness, and boredom. Mix well, and you've got a first-class mess."
Actress Lea Thompson mentioned that "I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say that they became physicists or inventors, how much they loved that movie and how much it inspired them."