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USA 1982/2002
Directed by
Steven Spielberg
115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Special Edition)

Synopsis: E.T. is an amiable little alien who becomes stranded on Earth and is befriended by a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) who lives in  suburban California.  Elliott, his brother (Robert MacNaughton) and little sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore) decide to keep its existence a secret but it starts to become homesick.  Meanwhile government agents are looking for it.

Manipulative and mawkish Steven Spielberg’s film should be watched with a family-sized pizza, 1.5 litre bottle of Mountain Dew and a large packet of M & Ms for full effect. If you think that such a combination is good for your kids, that is.

Spielberg is, needless to say, one of the masters of modern Hollywood. Which means on one level at least that he knows how to push the buttons of a mass audience.  E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is probably his most successful effort in this respect (the film has returned $450m on a budget of $10m and is still earning handsomely on the home entertainment market), indulging to the maximum the director’s fixation with the pre-pubescent view of life, a point of view clearly molded by the Disney school of film-making

Taking the familiar visitor-from-another-planet scenario Spielberg's E.T. (as he is dubbed by Elliott) is no malevolent alien but more akin to a gnomish pet. Elliott, the director's  target audience’s point of identification is a cute and plucky kid. Most of the film is given over to their bonding. But then E.T. starts to waste away and Elliott, who has developed some kind of para-sympathetic identification with his little companion grows ill too. Callous adults arrive with walkie-talkies and measuring apparatus.  Let the tears flow copiously. Of course, the kids, including the ones who once ragged Elliott, save the day and all ends well

E.T. is one of those films whose popular standing vastly exceeds their actual merits. It’s more that its simplicitudes, seamlessly knitted together by Spielberg’s skills as a film maker, make it easy for undiscriminating audiences (i.e., children under the age of ten) to invest in. In truth it’s a very ordinary film, the only saving graces being a perky seven year old Drew Barrymore  and the fact that John Williams' score is relatively understated and at times even sympathetic.

FYI: The 2002 re-release has had a couple of small extra scenes inserted and some CGI enhancement of E.T.  (In the original most of the full-body puppetry was performed by a 2'10" tall stuntman, but the scenes in the kitchen were done using a 12-year old boy who was born without legs but was an expert on walking on his hands.)




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