Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, Peter Coyote
Two decades after it first did so, can the story of a lonely boy and a bug-eyed extraterrestrial still melt the hearts of kids and grown-ups everywhere? Yes, it sure can. Nothing that was wrong with the original E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial has been improved with its 20th-anniversary reissue. The gaps in logic are still as big as black holes, the helmet-headed horde of alien-hunting scientists is still ridiculous and the religious symbolism is as subtle as a preacher's smile. So what? No one ever said a movie that made you feel good just thinking about it had to be perfect. E.T. was a sweet, goofy, love-affirming, very human movie when it came out in 1982. In this post-9/11 year, E.T.'s theme of peaceful coexistence may be more idealistic than ever, and more welcome. An extra-terrestrial is accidentally left behind on Earth in the forest outside a typical American suburb. Terrified and desperately alone, E.T. flees from the sound of men with clanging keys and seeks refuge in a backyard shed. Feeling like an alien himself due to his father's recent departure, 9-year old Elliot (Henry Thomas, Dead in the Water) discovers E.T. and coaxes him into the house with a trail of Reese's pieces. Elliot resolves to take care of the homesick creature and tries to keep him safe in a closet full of oversized stuffed toys. The two develop an empathic bond, which leads to hilarious complications, such as the scene in which the alien discovers beer and Elliot finds himself intoxicated in school on the day the class is supposed to chloroform and dissect frogs. It's one of those things you can't describe -- you gotta see it. Elliot reveals the alien to his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and baby sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and they agree to hide him from their divorce-distracted mother, Dee Wallace ( Month of Sundays). Inspired by a newspaper cartoon, E.T. wants to rig up a contraption to contact his planet -- in other words, the famous "E.T., phone home" -- so the kids disguise him as a Halloween ghost and whisk him back to the forest to set it up. Before E.T. makes contact however, he falls seriously ill, and unwittingly takes Elliot with him on his downward spiral. There's not a dry eye in the house when poor E.T.'s electro-cardiogram signal goes flat and his eyes are gently closed. But E.T. feels the spaceship getting closer and his little heart starts glowing as he returns from the dead. Now there's a mad dash to deliver E.T. to his pickup point. Can the boys on bicycles outmaneuver all the adults chasing them in cars? They sure can, because this is a Steven Spielberg movie and Steven is a conjurer. With E.T.'s amazing powers of levitation, the bicycles head for the sky, taking the boys on a fantastic ride high above the treetops. It's still the most amazing child-flight in movie history and even Harry Potter's quidditch match can't equal it. E.T. now has a few new scenes (notice the bathtub episode with E.T. floating happily below the surface of the water), and computer-generated enhancements throughout, as well as minor changes for current political correctness (the alien hunters now carry walkie-talkies instead of guns). Only the filmmakers and the movie's fanatic fans may notice the changes. The rest of the audience will know only that magic is on the big screen again.