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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.39%
Average: 3.66%
Pretty Bad: 8.54%
Total Crap: 8.54%

3 reviews, 64 user ratings

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Dancing Potato

"It came from outer space... to be our friend?!"
4 stars

Before 1977, aliens were gloopy, slimy and ate people. In 1977, they were designed to make people on LSD goes batshit. After 1977, we had E.T., a midget in a brown rubber suit that dressed up like a cowboy. I'm not on LSD, but I almost did go batshit.

A couple of years ago there was an “alien” fad. I remember this because I was sucked into it. Skater clothes began having these ugly little alien characters on them. They had giant heads, big bug eyes and tiny little bodies. On the shirts they were pictured as rebels, doing whatever the hell they wanted to do. I had one of an alien peeing in front of a “no peeing” sign (whoever made these shirts was a “genius”). Kids thought that this was brilliant. Alien used to be scary, big, with tentacles and stuff. This kind of alien was new, it broke all rules and regulations. Wrong. You see, the design had already be used many times, and probably brought into the mainstream by Steven Spielberg in a little film called Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

The movie begins in a wind-swept desert and the arrival of French scientist Lacombe (immortal director Francois Truffaut). Lacombe is told by a bunch of other scientists that he ahs to come see what they found. What they found a is a squadron of mint condition fighter planes from 1945, smack dab in the middle of the desert of Nowhere. All the scientists proceed to scratch their heads in unison.

Even more puzzling is what is happening to little Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey). One night, Barry’s toys go completely nutzoid for no reason. His cymbal monkey (the kid has a mangiotto action figure! Lucky him!) starts tapping, his toy train starts running and various other toys go crazy. We see Barry run out of the house, seemingly attracted by an invisible force. He eventually gets kidnapped by the lights.

Yet another character makes his entry in the story. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is a happily-married electrician with three children who is called out at the last minute that night. As he drives to his location that night, he almost runs over a small boy (Barry, of course) and his mother (Melinda Dillon). He also witnesses something extremely strange. The boy was following something alright: in the sky, red and blue lights flash past them. (Yeah, you guessed it.) Neary becomes obsessed with the little lights, guessing (correctly) that there’s something bigger behind it.

If you’re the kind of person who watches Rosemary’s Baby to see the baby, or watches Rat Race to see a rodent marathon, or watch Sweet November to see some quality acting by Keanu Reeves, Close Encounters will disappoint you. There are no aliens for most of the movie. Instead, most of the time is spent building up to the aliens’ arrival. In the scenes with Lacombe, CE is a science fiction film. But in the scenes with Neary, CE turns into a fantasy.

This is not Schindler’s List’s Spielberg. This Spielberg was drawn to telling stories for people, and making a crapload of money for it. This is quite evident in his direction. The aliens are depicted as peace-loving and pacifist, something that had rarely, if ever, been done before. The last thirty minutes are extremely strange, with lots of light and beeping a la Kubrick’s 2001. It’s not a surprise that many people recall having seen it while on drugs. Hell, drugs would probably have helped me understand the ending.

The worst part, however, of Spielberg’s mass-market appeal is the shameless corporate product placement. Imagine this for a minute: the lights go off in the city, block by block. Spielberg lingers on a bird’s eye view of the city, then zooms onto a McDonald’s sign (you know, the one with the “94 bajillion ClownBurgers sold”). It lingers there for a second, followed in succession by shots of a Shell gas station, the McDonalds and various other corporations. Talk about selling out.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it. For all its faults, Close Encounters is still a very enjoyable film. The fact that the aliens are only a backdrop of the story means that the script can be more though-provoking and rely less on the special effects to make the film enjoyable. Like this year’s A.I., Close Encounters appeals to different audiences for different reasons.

Richard Dreyfuss is great as the obsessed Neary. Whilst I can’t say I really like the guy, his freaky performance is really quite convincing. You seem to understand all the weird stuff he does even though you know in the back of your mind he’s completely barmy. (note: gratuitous use of obscure British swears will from this point on be discontinued) Melinda Dillon is also pretty good as the hysterical mother of Barry. Francois Truffaut is yet another in a long line of directors who match their films by giving great performances.Truffaut’s performance is even sparingly sprinkled with French so that instead of seeing a pompous idiot with an overdone French accent, we’re seeing a pompous idiot with a French accent who at least sounds like a real French guy.

Close Encounters has its share of clichés (a cute, marble-mouthed little kid, a scene in which the character is trying to climb up but can’t and at the last minute grabs the hand) but it remains an intelligent, ponderous fantasy, even if a movie’s values have changed since 1977.

Swirling lights do not a good movie make. Spielberg makes a good movie here, however.

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originally posted: 11/10/01 10:08:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival For more in the 2007 Deep Focus Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/12/18 Amme I lasted 20 minutes 1 stars
5/29/18 Suzanne Cheers for the music, special effects, Dreyfuss, and the kid. 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell generates sweetness & awe 4 stars
3/14/15 stanley welles a thrilling adventure story and an awesome example of the art and craft of movie making 5 stars
1/02/15 Catherine H great film, a true classic of imagination 5 stars
9/03/12 Beaner This movie was as good as a bag of shit on thanksgiving. 3/10 would bang 1 stars
1/02/12 ari-free Most boring, overhyped sci-fi movie ever. 1 stars
10/24/10 Jeff Wilder Easily one of Spielberg's best. I actually like this one more than ET. 5 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King The film is visually stunning but the film's pacing and length count against it. 3 stars
3/28/10 Shaun A This generates awe, like really being there, in a way MTV editing can't. 4 stars
2/21/10 mike A boring boring boring movie with that annoying 19070s orchestra music...pointless plot... 1 stars
2/20/10 Andrew Glencross A close encounter with film making greatness!. 5 stars
10/20/09 MP Bartley Transcendental and probably Spielberg's most underrated picture. 5 stars
9/28/09 RLan While visually appealing, the story wasn't that good. Very disappointing! 2 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Well Made! 5 stars
1/30/08 Vineet Doshi Not the greatest, but it's still a well made movie. Non Sci-Fi fans won't appreciate it. 4 stars
1/08/08 action movie fan excellent ufo sci/fi the best film to deal with extra-terrestials 5 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega Spielberg's brainchild. Inspired him to create more masterpieces to come. 5/5. 5 stars
6/12/07 al smith amazing just as incredible now as when it was first released 5 stars
3/12/07 Jordan Very boring and pointless movie. The last sequence at Devil's Tower is so poor... 2 stars
12/19/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, great fx 5 stars
12/07/06 Azem it's still standing #1 on my top list!!! 5 stars
10/13/06 J Appleseed Big budget film making at its worst. Aliens that communicate by music? Horseshit. 2 stars
12/31/05 Ronin Just awesome, a bit creepy too. I was quite scared when I saw that movie as a kid. 5 stars
9/02/05 Eden Takes to long to do nothing 3 stars
8/11/05 ES I don't believe in aliens and this movie did not change that= boring 2 stars
8/02/05 Ric Still one my least favorite Spielberg films. 2 stars
4/15/05 Veronika Boyd A film that can be watched again and again and again and again and again and again 5 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold Awe-inspiring and eye-popping. The 2nd best sci fi movie ever after 2001. 5 stars
2/02/05 ralph a true movie expert 32 yrs old well done feel good alien film with terrific special effects 4 stars
4/14/04 slayathon This movie is just an all over great piece of film!!! 5 stars
12/07/03 john great cinema 5 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick scary at times 5 stars
9/27/03 JJ This is my favorite Sci-Fi movie! Very well done with great acting! 5 stars
9/06/03 Dimitri Aubert Maybe I saw too many sci-fi movies to be amazed by this one. Still good though. 4 stars
4/16/03 JL Loved it 5 stars
3/12/03 GMan I would've ended with Dreyfuss transformed into a planet-destroying weapon by the aliens... 3 stars
1/21/03 Nevz Well, actually, it's not too bad for a seventies flick 4 stars
6/25/02 Charles Tatum Fantastic 5 stars
3/16/02 R.W. Welch The Ending is a little weak, otherwise a fascinating sci-fi fantasy. 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver A classic. I still love the music. 5 stars
11/14/01 Zizzerzazzerzuzz Usual Spielberg formula: assume the audience is stupid, then spoon-feed them a shitty story 2 stars
10/10/01 Andrew Carden Way Too Boring For Sci-Fi Fans, Barely Appealing. 2 stars
10/08/01 adam Spielbergs best.A marvellous movie.Has aged well.Good casting,lovely performances,BRILLIANT 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk An amazing science fiction film on every level...and that "means something" 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg The stuff of legends . 5 stars
6/11/01 I love movies hah! this sucked completely! shame on you Spielberg for this terrible movie! 1 stars
4/21/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) I was raised on this movie!!!!! 5 stars
1/06/01 paul watkins nearly 25 years old- a classic 5 stars
12/14/00 cory fowler it sucked ass 1 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla One of the best films ever made, nothing more or less 5 stars
11/15/00 salvo toscano his best film (the music's my mobile's one) 5 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin WWAAAAAAAYYYYYYY better than ET 5 stars
7/01/00 Jed Flawed but good "classic" film. 4 stars
4/14/00 yankee great movie, wish I could build a tower in my living room, special effects were awesome 5 stars
11/29/99 Mic The second of Spielberg's widely acclaimed six masterpieces. 5 stars
10/27/99 Ralf Behet A truly visionary film. Made by a master craftsman. A classic! 5 stars
7/20/99 Matthew Bartley A true hair raising film 5 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: ***½ (out of ****) Category: "Very Good" 4 stars
7/02/99 Sleeper I still, to this day, cannot watch this movie alone. 4 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Great. 4 stars
5/21/99 J. Random Hacker Damn good special effects for its time. 4 stars
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  16-Nov-1977 (PG)


  02-Feb-1978 (PG)

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