Wednesday, March 30, 2016

AFI Top 100, #25: "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" (1982)

Movie Stats:
Released 1982 (France)
American, in English
Director - Steven Spielberg
Stars - Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore

Plot Summary:
When a space alien accidentally gets left behind by his compatriots, he finds refuge in the home of a young boy, Elliott (Thomas). MacNaughton co-stars as Elliott’s older brother, Michael, and Barrymore as his younger sister, Gertie.

Minor blue language; very minor violence.

Bad Stuff:
The product placement is out of control, to the point where I couldn’t help but roll my eyes multiple times. Never before or since have Reese’s Pieces been so popular.

Absolutely nothing is explained. It’s the same problem I had with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Things happen with no explanation as to how or why. What does any of it mean? I guess Spielberg expected me to be so dazzled by the special effects and screaming children that I wouldn’t have questions.

I’m genuinely perplexed as to why the movie went to such great lengths to make Keys (Peter Coyote) seem sinister (the continuous focus on his keys, and subsequently his crotch, was frankly weird) when, in the end, he turned out rather nice, like a grown-up version of Elliott. I just don’t get the point. I assume it was a cheap way to make it seem like there was a “bad guy” when there really wasn’t.

Good Stuff:
Little baby Drew Barrymore is so adorable and shockingly good for such a young child.

The script is good at the small moments, little things that make the movie seem much more realistic, such as the scene where Michael very badly backs the family car down the driveway (and later, when he screams in a panic, “I’ve never driven forwards before!”), or when Elliott lures E.T. out of hiding with candy, which is total kid logic, or when mom Mary (Dee Wallace) can’t help but laugh when her kid shouts the words “penis breath.”

Its message about friendship is rather lovely.

You can never go wrong with a John Williams score.

The Verdict:

Viewing it as an adult, I have to admit that I don’t really get it (I saw it once before, around the age of 12, so nearly 30 years ago). I have so many questions. The movie doesn’t answer any of them. Why are Elliott and E.T. connected emotionally? How do they get disconnected? Why does E.T. get sick and die? How does he come back to life? How did his galactic phone contraption work? And so on and so forth. I get that this is a kid’s movie, so I should cut it some slack, but I feel like this is an awful lot to ask me to swallow without questioning. Also, there is way too much screaming (both child and alien) for my tastes. And the sound mixing was awful. I could barely hear anything that Mary said.

I think that people my age and younger love "E.T." because they first saw it as children, and that people older than me loved it because it was so different from everything else that was out at the time. Viewed objectively, however, it’s not terribly well crafted. On the other hand, it is sweet and kind-hearted. I’m sure it will go down in history as a classic. Far be it from me to completely dump on a such a beloved movie.

I give it 3 stars.


Patricia said...

It occurs to me that I haven't seen this since maybe I was twelve. I remember seeing it in the theater (the whole family went) and being obsessed with Neil Diamond's "Heartlight" song. And I'm pretty sure we must have watched it again on VHS. But it's been a very long time.

I wonder what I would think if I watched it now.

And just for fun, I've included a link to a promo video of "Heartlight" What in the hell is going on with Mr. Diamond's hair?

Also, Wikipedia tells me that Diamond and his co-writers had to pay Universal $25,000 for using the ET story to inspire their song.

balyien said...

Wow, he's making some serious love to the camera with his eyes. Lol!

80s hair was kind to virtually no one. :(