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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Starring: Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: June 1982
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Classic, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, C. Thomas Howell, K.C. Martel, Sean Frye

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

When the final curtain rang down on a Broadway performance of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" one evening in 1949, an executive type in the fifth row was heard to say to his wife, "I always knew that New England route was no damn good." Talk about literal interpretations of theater! I almost expected someone in the audience for "E.T." to mumble, "I always told you that the suburbs are the best place to bring up kids," which may well be true considering the adorable family adopted by Steven Spielberg for his blockbusting, box-office-record-breaking 1982 film. Now in its 20th anniversary with just a few minutes added and a sprucing up of John Williams' stirring score, "E.T." knocks 'em dead once again, a film that is so visually and emotionally arresting the darn thing takes your breath away.

What makes this fable a parable that compares favorably with "The Wizard of Oz"? You could mention ten-year-old Henry Thomas's performance, perhaps the best rendetion by a kid at any time on the silver screen of the power of imagination, the very quality that begins to deteriorate once we reach junior high school. Then again, the greatness could be found in the dramatic trajectory, the way director Steven Spielberg starts the show ominously as though he were emulating David Lynch's "Blue Velvet." as a group of sinister adults attempt to track down something that's moving in the tall grass, and breaks up each episode of high excitement with a period of character exploration. We can't fail to mention the astonishing visuals, culminating in the world-famous scene of a boy on his bike soaring over the California trees by the light of the moon. Most of all, I guess, "E.T." treats the subject of communication in a way so stirring that few so-called adult films can match the depiction of the empathy of a lonely boy, the product of a home without a father and the butt of jokes of his older schoolmates, as he connects famously with his mirror image from a distant planet.

The title character is a green, lizard-like creature with a neck so flexible that he can rise from a figure about three and one-half feet tall to one about a forehead higher than his new young friend. When his space vehicle takes off inadvertently without him, the extra terrestrial feels as abandoned as does the young lad, Elliott (Henry Thomas), and as a creature dependent on the kindness of his ten-year-old host he evokes love and a sense of responsibility in the little man and eventually in his mom (Dee Wallace), his kid sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and even the older guys in school who go along for the ride.

Though the film bogs down for a while when E.T. has been stricken and is placed on an operating table by doctors intent on bringing him back for future experimentation, Spielberg's movie effectively shows adults a world as seen from the point of view of a excited boy, and while the kids in the audience are bound to forget about fidgeting, the real winners are we old timers in the audience who for a couple of hours are transported back to a period in our lives that the clouds, the stars, and whole universe are seen as though for the first time.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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