Close Encounters for Children
Well it may have taken 28 years but I finally watched "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial". Actually I've watched it before, a bit here, a bit there, 30 minutes caught when shown on TV but not until today had I watched it from start to finish. Was it worth it, well definitely yes as not only has "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" stood the test of time but it is a wonderfully magical, imaginative story which captures your attention and heart. making you smile and cry.
When an alien spaceship visiting earth on an exploratory mission accidentally leaves one of their kind behind, the little alien is fortunate to be discovered by Elliot (Henry Thomas - Dear John), a young school child. Taken to his home Elliot and the alien visitor he calls "E.T." soon become friends, emotionally linked as Elliot feels exactly what E.T. feels. With the aid of his brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore - Going the Distance), Elliot tries to keep E.T. a secret whilst also helping him get back to his planet. But Elliot is not the only one to know about E.T. as mysterious government agents aware of the visit of an alien spaceship are on their trail.
With its foundations firmly set in the world of sci-fi with an undeniable nod towards "The Day The Earth Stood Still", "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" is a glorious science fiction movie. We have aliens, not of the little green men variety, spaceships and those mysterious men from a top secret government agency who ominously lurk in the shadows. It's the stuff of X-Files, except that came many years later, and as such it's totally fascinating. You don't even need to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy the science fiction on show in "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" as it gives it a human side.
But aside from the whole science fiction side of things "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" is also hugely amusing. The initial encounter between Elliot and E.T. is brilliantly funny, with the baseball coming back at Elliot. And that sharp touch of humour continues throughout giving us some of the most memorable scenes such as E.T. getting drunk whilst Elliot is in a biology class setting frogs free or Gertie dressing E.T. up in fancy address. Its part of what makes "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" so brilliant because it gives us comedy without it feeling forced.
And of course as many rightly point out "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" also has a fable quality, the story has many messages about love, loss, friendship as well as death all of which is wrapped up nicely without it ever feeling too manufactured or forced. In fact the fable side of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and the friendship between Elliot and E.T. is at it's best, the closeness that is formed, the emotion of being apart and so on makes it surprisingly a tear joker, hitting those emotional high notes which makes you want to reach for the Kleenex.
One of the shocking things is that "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" is a family movie, here in the UK it has a U certificate yet with the science fiction element and mysterious government men with jangling keys it does have a few scary moments. In fact until Elliot befriends E.T. it really is quite creepy, atmospheric and not what you necessary expect from a movie for all the family. Not that there is anything really nasty which happens, it's just more serious in places, basically the start and the end, than you would expect.
Plus of course what makes "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" so good is the acting from a very young cast in particular Henry Thomas who leads the movie brilliantly, showing the emotion of a childhood friendship perfectly, whilst also delivering that fascination of finding an alien. In the scenes where Thomas is feeling heart broken, the raw emotion of those scenes is spectacular, frighteningly real yet the joy which follows is just as brilliant. And of course alongside Henry Thomas is Drew Barrymore as Gertie a performance full of cuteness but also delivering so much more. It's no wonder that Barrymore went on to have such a stunning career in movies, as this has to be one of the best performances from a child, full of confidence and naturalness.
What this all boils down to is that "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial", even now some 28 years after being released, is a stunning movie. It has that magical quality which whisks you along on a tale full of comedy, drama, sentiment plus of course sci-fi and delivers several fable style messages at the same time. Compared to may modern movies which target the family market "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" still remains head and shoulders above the majority.