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Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "His adventure on earth."
MPAA Rating: PG for language and mild thematic elements. (2002 version of this movie)
The main difference between the two versions of the film is that the 2002 release offers better sound quality and has slightly improved special effects compared to the 1982 release, and the guns that appeared in the original are missing in the 20th Anniversary version. But the story is the same in both versions, and no matter which of the two you choose to watch, you're in for a big treat.
The main character in "E.T." is a 10-year-old boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas), who lives in a suburban housing tract in Northern California. Elliott has a 14-year-old brother (Robert MacNaughton) and a five-year-old sister (Drew Barrymore). As we watch the three siblings squabble, make messes, and fib a little, we come to regard them as fairly normal children. I found it interesting that Elliott and his siblings aren't sugar-coated Hollywood stereotypes, and they sometimes use mild profanity and have disrespectful attitudes. They may not be the best role models for other kids, but it does make them realistic characters. For example, when Elliott wants to insult his big brother, he calls him "penis breath."
The three kids live with their mother Mary (Dee Wallace), who dresses nicely and drives off to work every morning. Mary is a loving mother, but she seems to be somewhat indulgent, and her children sometimes call her by her first name. We soon learn that Mary and her husband are recently separated, and the kids miss their father. When Elliott lets it slip that his dad is in Mexico with someone named Sally, Mary gets tears in her eyes and says, "He hates Mexico."
One night Elliott encounters an extraterrestrial alien who was accidentally left behind when his spaceship had to leave Earth in a hurry. But the extraterrestrial turns out to be completely harmless, and the kids bond with him and start to refer to him as E.T. They do what they can to protect and help him while he constructs a communications device to contact his race on their remote planet. E.T. explains what he is doing to the kids in the rudimentary English he has picked up by saying, "E.T. phone home."
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is aware of the spaceship landing that took place near Elliott's house and is engaged in a massive, well-funded attempt to find out anything it can about the visitors from outer space. Eventually heavy-handed, bureaucratic government personnel locate E.T., and everything threatens to spin out of control. But by the end of the film, young Elliott has learned some valuable life lessons that should serve him well as he continues to mature.
I thought that the strong performances by the young actors in "E.T." made their characters come alive. I particularly liked Henry Thomas in the role of Elliott, and Drew Barrymore was delightful as his young sister Gertie.
I thought that, with its improved special effects and remastered sound track, the 2002 update looks and sounds as good as any contemporary movie. The updated version also contains a cute new scene of E.T. enjoying himself in a bathtub.
The DVDs come with many special features, which I have listed below. Unfortunately, neither version of the film comes with a commentary track. I can only hope that Spielberg will record one for some future DVD release.
Selected Special Features on the DVDs:
• 2002 Feature Film (121 minutes)
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