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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 1.79%
Pretty Bad: 8.93%
Total Crap: 16.07%

3 reviews, 38 user ratings

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary
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by Collin Souter

"This time, it's personal"
5 stars

I remember that day almost perfectly. Almost, because I can’t pinpoint an exact date, but it did happen in June of 1982. I was nine years old. A friend of mine, Peter, had a birthday party and about 12 of us went to the Randhurst Cinema in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, to see what every person on the planet had been raving about over the past week or two (or three). This happened back when Randhurst only had two screens, one year before they added two more and exactly 15 years before they tore it down and rebuilt it into a 15-screen multiplex. Anyway, that June afternoon in that packed movie house, I had an experience that changed my life.

Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” showed me for the first time in my life the power of movies. I had been turned on my movies in the past, especially with the “Star Wars” films and “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” even the odd ON-TV movie would peak my interest. But I’ve never felt completely and utterly emotionally involved in a movie. Before “E.T.,” I had no idea a movie could have you laughing out loud one minute and moved to unbearable tears the next. I had no idea you were allowed to cheer at a movie whose star happened to be a child, my age at the time. I didn’t know about suspense or about danger, or even about the power of music. The world opened up and, suddenly, I had a passion in my life that moved beyond those Kenner toys cluttering my bedroom.

I didn’t realize any of this, of course, until a few years ago when the movie came out on laserdisc in celebration of “E.T.”’s 15th Anniversary. As I watched it at home on my laserdisc player, I slowly began to realize what an impact this movie had on my life. I can safely say that “E.T.” may very well be responsible for some of my life’s best experiences, many of which occurred in a movie theater. “E.T.” heightened my awareness of this limitless art form.

Every movie lover has a first. Some cinephiles get turned on by a director’s unique vision or skill. Some get turned on by a movie’s complete lack of sanity, to which a person might respond by writing their own comedies. Some people get turned on by the other-worldliness of a film. Some find inspiration in the power of an actor’s performance. And for some, it’s all of the above. I myself love it all, but I have to say that, to me, the most important aspect of any film has to be the emotion put into it. I will say it loud and say it proud: I love to be manipulated.

There exists a group of film critics and theorists who believe that a film should not be judged on how it makes one feel, but about the technical skill from which it was made. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the film makes you laugh your head off or bawl your eyes out because it reminds you of a traumatic childhood experience. None of that matters. One should only be looking at the director’s craft and skills as an artist. If the movie conjures up strong emotions, but doesn’t cause one to think about the deepest issues surrounding it, than the movie has ultimately failed. While I don’t entirely disagree, I am certainly not a devoted subscriber to this philosophy. Spielberg has always been accused of being just a button pusher, with John Williams’ score being the most oft-used button. This may be true, but just because “E.T.” doesn’t make me want to crack open my good ole trusty copy of “On Death and Dying,” I don’t feel that makes it any less valuable than a movie that does.

I believe in a good time as well as a thought-provoking challenge. I have always said that the best films are those that manage to be both (and by “good time,” I mean a laugh and a cry, because, let’s face it suckers, we secretly love to cry at the movies). “E.T.” may not be an intellectual’s smorgasbord, but it does showcase a director at the very top of his game. By the time Spielberg made “E.T.,” he had learned all his lessons from his previous hits (“Jaws,” “Close Encounters,” “Raiders of the Lost Arc”) and misses (“1941,” which I know is debatable). For this movie, he turned inward, put his camera at child-eye level and went for the quiet moments whenever he could. And, still, he didn’t let us leave the theater until we felt as though we had just been on the greatest roller-coaster ride of our lives.

So, what exactly got me at that time and what gets me now? In 1982, Spielberg got me with the story of Elliot, a boy near my age living in suburbia who has been given an incredible gift: A real-life alien being from another planet to call his friend. The movie also got me with its realistic portrayal of the three siblings, these kids who didn’t seem over-coached or too cute, as they often did in those live-action Disney movies. Their bedrooms resembled my bedroom. They played D&D, Star Wars and learned everything from Sesame Street. Since at the time, I wasn’t entirely well acquainted with “Close Encounters,” these were the first real kids I’ve ever seen in a movie. Elliot even had a love interest, sort-of. (Oh my God…it’s not just me!!!) And check out how hip these kids are with the Elvis Costello poster on the wall.

What gets me now? All of the above, which makes for a great nostalgia trip, combined with my love for Spielberg’s craft, Melissa Matheson’s screenplay and John Williams’ score, which they completely botched in its 15th Anniversary re-release. Matheson, who would later go on to write “The Indian in the Cupboard” as well as Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” has such a keen ear for the way kids talk and feel. Her screenplay ingeniously touches on feelings of loss and loneliness with Elliot and his family while simultaneously conveying the danger of more adults (in this case, government officials) closing in. The movie opens with a chase and the chase keeps going.

John Williams’ score also gives me the chills. Alternately pulse-pounding and gentle, Williams’ score to “E.T.” could certainly be used as a textbook example on how to score a movie and how to give a character an appropriate theme. Take the chase music, for example, that opens the film. It echoes throughout the film, but on a slower speed as the chase itself has become more involved and intricate. The newly re-mixed soundtrack in the theater will remind you of why this music has endured. The 15th Anniversary soundtrack I wrote about earlier tried to cram all the movie’s music on one CD, losing the flow and simplicity of the original 8-track recording. If you happen to find an old copy of the original release in a used CD store, I highly recommend it.

But the whole movie gets me, really. Today, it plays just as fast, just as funny, just as sad and just as awe-inspiring. Its much talked-about computer enhancements for this 20th Anniversary edition didn’t distract me nearly as much as I thought they would (The spaceship looks great). However, I found the new scene in the bathroom where Elliot teaches E.T. about running water a little too cute, although it does show another side to Henry Thomas’ endearing and pitch-perfect performance. The other additional scene worthy of note takes place on Halloween night where the mother, played by Dee Wallace (who would later become Dee Wallace Stone), drives around the neighborhood looking for her kids. It’s supposed to be Halloween in a suburban town, but all the chaos and activity makes it resemble Devil’s Night in Detroit.

Oddly enough, Spielberg chose to leave out the classic cutting-room floor scene in which Elliot, after freeing all the frogs in his school, gets sent to the principal’s office. Harrison Ford played the principal, but you never once saw his face. (You can see that scene on the 15th Anniversary laserdisc. Happy hunting.)

Still, the movie stands as a perfect movie-going experience that I don’t believe will ever show signs of age. Most great movies maintain their worth by simply finding universal themes and never losing sight of them. Spielberg has always considered “E.T.” his most personal film. He would later return to these close and personal themes of abandonment by one’s father (“Hook,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Close Encounters”) and unconditional love (“A.I. Artificial Intelligence”) with mixed results. After 20 years, “E.T.” remains his greatest triumph. I’m sure somewhere out there is a child, or maybe even an adult, who just had the exact same experience I had 20 years ago in that ratty old Randhurst Theater. And, as I did, they will carry it with them forever.

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originally posted: 03/23/02 19:41:21
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell how could someone not like E.T. heartless fucks 5 stars
4/10/11 randy todger devon go watch gay porn you boring cunt! 5 stars
6/21/10 Sarah Webster Devon please shoot yourself. This is better than Star Wars. Best film ever made. Period! 5 stars
1/14/10 Devon A terrible film with the most undeserved revenue ever. 1 stars
10/29/09 MP Bartley Could do without the little changes, but it still kills you with its massive heart. 5 stars
10/26/09 His_wife72 Well, This site prepared me for the behavior interview and i was able to ace it without an 4 stars
10/25/09 GanjaBoy95 No job and no amount of money is worth allowing someone to treat you poorly. , <a href="htt 4 stars
10/25/09 John36 For we must not forget that what is passed on by the parent to the child is not just this 2 stars
10/24/09 Alex46      Yet I find it almost amusing that we have gone from someone wanting C to skip a grade 4 stars
10/24/09 Crazy79 Human speakers are often polyglot able to communicate in two or more of them. , <a href="ht 4 stars
10/23/09 Roy69 Favorite animal movie star. , 2 stars
6/10/08 Yoda Typical Spielberg fare. All surface; no depth. 2 stars
11/27/07 dude classic 5 stars
6/24/07 Sugarfoot Dull as dishwater. 1 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega A magical contemporary classic. 5/5. 5 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini brilliant, great fx for it's time. Funny. 5 stars
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist Just as good as the original, minor campiness, but still excellent! 4 stars
6/28/06 joe koski E.T. is better than the lost world:jurassic park because jurassic park 2 is dummmm 5 stars
12/21/04 adfslj it sucked 5 stars
11/08/04 Dave booooooooooooooooooooooooring 1 stars
12/27/03 vaibhav dhake one of the best film i have ever seen in child hood 5 stars
12/17/03 john what if you messed around with a decent film 20 years later and nobody cared? 1 stars
6/26/03 cochese I hate this flick, always have and always will. 3 stars
3/12/03 GMan HUH HUH ALIENS HUH HUH HUH... 4 stars
2/12/03 Steven Spielberg Dee, you can have Drew's 15% for a blowjob. 1 stars
1/10/03 Chiendog $100M to cgi-remove all guns in the movie? Steven speilberg sucks shit. 1 stars
10/29/02 José fantastic film 5 stars
10/26/02 Josh you people are heartless pricks 5 stars
8/11/02 blakers a good film 4 stars
3/29/02 Ian Waldron-Mantgani, The UK Critic, Great movie, crappy new bits. 4 stars
3/28/02 NeuroManson Crusty ol' fart here, I grew to hate ET, now you younguns can too! 1 stars
3/27/02 TomF Great flick, touch-up didn't screw it up 5 stars
3/26/02 spankachu i fucking hate this movie 1 stars
3/26/02 Danielle Ophelia Mother fuck. I know I'm cynical bitch, but y'all are giving me me a run for my money. 5 stars
3/25/02 Joe Deblow all the ones who gave it a 3 4 or 5 are probably fans of bile like SnowDogs and Peter Pan 2 2 stars
3/24/02 john all the ones who gave it a 1 2 3 are probably fans of star crud 5 stars
3/24/02 Keith Spielberg fondling his inner child. Yawn. 2 stars
3/23/02 Janitor61 what the hell is this tripe? Make something new, speilberg!! 1 stars
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  22-Mar-2002 (PG)



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