Twenty Years Later, E.T. Still Enchants
- Sunday, February 24, 2002
Best for: Mature children and adults.
What it's about: When Elliot (Henry Thomas) discovers an alien in his backyard, he takes him in, names him E.T. and introduces him to his brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and his younger sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore). Their single mother (Dee Wallace-Stone), depressed over her separation from her husband, thinks Elliot is joking about finding an alien.
E.T. loves and cares for Elliot and his siblings while the children protect E.T. from Keys (Peter Coyote, named for the jingling keys hanging from his belt), the government man tracking E.T. Elliot and E.T. share their thoughts, emotions and even illness. As E.T. nears death, the children try to help him find a way back to his home planet.
The good: Director Steven Spielberg celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the highest-grossing movies ever by reissuing the film for a new generation. For purists who are passionate about the original and can't see any room for improvement, don't worry, you'll be able to catch both editions on the DVD release.
The wonderful story, written by Melissa Mathison (Harrison Ford's ex-wife), remains the same except for a few minor changes. This time around, Spielberg has beefed up some of the special effects (like the alien spaceship) and put real boys on the bikes as they fly through the air. There's a bathtub scene where Elliot shows E.T. how to float and a few extra scenes with the kids. E.T. also has been given a facelift; where the original puppet was mechanical or stiff, digital technology this time around allows him to have more expressions and reactions.
This movie works because kids can identify with Elliot and his passion to save his dear friend. The fact that Elliot and E.T. outsmart the adults and authority figures who are trying to take E.T. away gives Elliot a hero status that kids love. Thomas gives an incredible performance as the young hero, but Barrymore is equally adorable and steals several scenes in the movie.
Spielberg has long made it known that E.T. was one of his favorite films and has said the reason he decided to have children of his own was because of the relationships he had with his child actors.
I love this movie: the music, the adorable children, the sweet relationship E.T. has with Elliot and the fantasy elements. I find it amusing that my teenagers were too young to see E.T. when it came out and they now want to experience it on the big screen.
The not-so-good: I think only a few "kid-sensitive" issues are worth pointing out, since the majority of people have seen this movie. Divorce was part of our culture 20 years ago, but it wasn't discussed as freely among children as it is today. Still, even though kids are more aware of it, any child whose parents are going through a painful separation will readily identify with the young characters who miss their dad. A couple of scenes address the issue, noting that dad is in Mexico with his girlfriend. When no one believes Elliot's story about a creature in the backyard, Elliot says, "Dad would believe me."
Other issues you may need to explain to your younger kids include: what the government men really want with E.T.; whether aliens exist; and death and dying.
Many Christians have taken issue with the spiritual messages in this film and with the fact that E.T. can heal things by the touch of his finger or come back to life after he dies. These topics are important to discuss with your younger children, giving them your spiritual perspective, but I don't believe those plot points ruin this movie or give Christians a theological reason not to let your children see it.
Offensive language and behavior: Language includes the "s" and "d" words, S.O.B., and a few religious exclamations. The kids use crude expressions with each other. Elliot calls his brother "penis breath" during a fight. E.T. finds beer in the refrigerator and, not knowing what it is, drinks a few and falls down drunk. At the same time, since Elliot is mentally connected to E.T., he appears to be drunk while at school.
Sexual situations: None.
Violence: Younger kids may be scared by the early chase scenes of E.T. running through the forest. Also, at first, little ones might be frightened by how E.T. looks, but as soon as Gertie gets through her scream, your kids should be OK.
Parental advisory: E.T. is a wonderful classic that kids (and adults) seem to enjoy watching again and again. Parents of younger kids who haven't watched this movie (especially on the big screen) may want to discuss (before or after) the fact that E.T. dies and then comes back to life. A few scenes leading up to that point are sad and may be upsetting to younger kids.
Bottom Line: I was thrilled to see the improvements Spielberg added to one of the most popular movies ever made. Even if you've watched this movie many times before, go see it on the big screen. The added scenes and cosmetic touches make the whole experience even more enjoyable.
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