Okay, while this 20th anniversary reissue makes a few changes, it's not quite that radical... but if you haven't seen this film since you were 10 years old (like me), it is well worth another visit to the movie. Never mind the updates and alterations -- it's amazing how much I'd forgotten from the original -- which means the update is just as fresh and exciting as it was in 1982. But Steven Spielberg has been tinkering -- and not really in an obvious way like Lucas did with Star Wars. Most notable among the changes (which add about 5 minutes to the running time) are a repaired and expanded opening sequence, wherein we meet E.T. and his alien family, which is forced to leave him behind when those pesky feds get too close.
E.T. ends up being found in America's foggiest subdivision by Elliott (Henry Thomas), who immediately finds a connection with him - two loners both lost in their own way. Elliott eventually introduces E.T. to his siblings, played by Robert NacNaughton and an unforgettable Drew Barrymore, who absolutely steals the show as the terminally cute Gertie (poor kid!). Meanwhile, a strange, symbiotic bond forms between the boy and the alien. Soon they feel each other's emotions and experience each other's sicknesses - most memorably when E.T. consumes a six-pack of Coors, getting them both drunk.
The feds close in on the alien just as he begins to get inexplicably ill (and not from the beer) - prompting Elliott to help him "phone home," building a kind of space antenna out of an umbrella, a circular saw blade, a fork, and, of course, a Speak 'n' Spell. Director Steven Spielberg hasn't fixed the nonsensical science of E.T. with this reissue, but that's befitting both the Spielberg "writ large" style and the fact that this is really a fable for children, not a pondering on high-tech. In fact, it's one of the best children's stories ever put to film.
The other changes are more difficult to spot. Spielberg has fixed a number of continuity and special effects mistakes, of course. A scene with Elliott comparing his height to the alien - only for his neck to stretch for the first time - is a memorable addition, and purists will bemoan the replacement of the feds' guns with walkie-talkies (yeah, it looks weird when you hold a walkie-talkie like a gun), though it hardly ruins the movie.
What's intact is the film's powerful yet unmushy message of friendship, unconditional love, helping those in need... geez, what doesn't this film have that an impressionable kid couldn't stand to hear? E.T., as we conclude in the end, is a lost child, just like Elliott. The bond between these two stands as one of cinema's most stirring relationships ever -- especially amazing considering one of them has a vocabulary of about 10 words.
I figured today's jaded kids, which packed our screening, wouldn't care for E.T., seeing the movie as manipulative and cheesy. But how wrong I was: On the way out, a pipsqueak chorus of "E.T. phone home!" was all I could hear.
Lots of extras on the long-awaited DVD release, which packs in plenty of archival documentary footage and a reunion interview with the cast and crew (dig Robert MacNaughton's hairdo!). A real must-have.
Might as well be riding bikes on the sun.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th June 1982
Box Office Worldwide: $792.9M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriter: Melissa Mathison
Starring: Henry Thomas as Elliott, Peter Coyote as Keys, Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Erika Eleniak as Pretty Girl, Sean Frye as Steve, C. Thomas Howell as Tyler, Robert MacNaughton as Michael, K. C. Martel as Greg, David M. O'Dell as Schoolboy, Richard Swingler as Science Teacher, Frank Toth as Policeman, Pat Welsh as E.T. (voice), Dee Wallace as Mary
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