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E.T.: The 20th Anniversary Edition (March 21/02)

E.T. is back and thankfully, all that ballyhoo about massive changes via digitally enhanced special effects was much ado about nothing.

Apart from one sequence featuring an obviously computer-generated E.T., the rest of the effects have been inserted seamlessly into the film. Unlike George Lucas’ various additions to the Star Wars trilogy in 1997’s special editions – which wound up turning those films into entirely new entities – E.T. remains the same lovable and thoroughly enjoyable movie it always was.

As the movie opens, we see E.T. and his (or is it her?) fellow aliens scouring a wooded area near the suburbs. E.T., though, has a bit of a curious streak in him and leaves the designated exploration area. After a lengthy chase by unseen men, E.T. winds up missing his ride back home. He hides in the shed of a nearby house, which just happens to be inhabited by Elliott (Henry Thomas). He’s discovered there the next day, and Elliott and E.T. become fast friends.

The storyline of E.T. is a relatively simple one, with complications ensuing as the movie progresses. It’s this plot-free first hour and the leisurely pace that Spielberg employs that might make E.T. a bit of a jarring experience for younger viewers. For those who’ve grown up on movies like Toy Story and The Lion King – movies that zip right along like a peppy new Toyota – E.T. might come as a bit of a shock. The first 30-minutes of the movie doesn’t really engage on any level, it’s main purpose being to introduce the characters and the situation. If E.T. has any fault, it’s this introductory half hour. But get past that, and watch as the magic unfolds.

The performances are uniformly excellent. As Elliott, Thomas never resorts to that “cutesy, oh-look-at-how-precious-I-am” schtick that so many child actors fall prey to. He becomes a kid that you want to root for, and indeed, he’s the sort of young boy that we all knew at one point or another. Drew Barrymore, in one of her first performances, is simple adorable as Elliott’s inquisitive little sister. And Dee Wallace, as their mother, hits all the right notes as their emotionally unstable mother.

E.T. is a bona fide classic that has something to offer moviegoers of all ages. Don’t miss it.

out of

© David Nusair