E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

on August 01, 2008 by BOXOFFICE Staff
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"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," Steven Spielberg's first "small film," is a modern classic.
   Forsaking the overload of special effects and high adventure that marked his previous successes to focus instead on a small story propelled by heart and imagination, Spielberg has made a film that will touch audiences for years to come.
   Playing closely to the theme of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "E.T." follows the warmly personal story of the magical friendship of 10-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas) and an abandoned being from another world who seeks the youngster's protection.
   Melissa Mathison's beautifully written screenplay reveals the plight of a three-foot-tall alien who is left behind by his landing party after humans discover their nocturnal plant-gathering mission. Alone and frightened, the being approaches the home of single parent Mary (Dee Wallace) and her three children, Elliott, teenaged Michael (Robert Macnaughton) and four-year-old Gertie (Drew Barrymore).
   After Elliott surprises the alien in the family's woodshed, the boy senses that the stumpy "goblin" needs his help and guidance. Elliott hides the being, whom he names "E.T.," in his closet, playing with him and learning to communicate with simple physical signals.
   Eventually Elliott reveals his new friend to his brother and sister. Although they are initially frightened, they too keep E.T. a secret from the outside world.
   Elliott and E.T. form a telepathic bond, illustrated in a hilarious sequence in which the alien's first experience with alcohol is transmitted to a confused Elliott, who is soon weaving about his classroom without knowing why.
   Though the being is fascinated with his new surroundings, he longs to return home. With the children's help, he constructs a primitive communications beacon and signals his spaceship after leaving the house for the first time on Halloween night.
   But E.T. weakens and is felled by disease before the night is over. At the same time, government researchers locate him in Elliott's house using a sophisticated bugging device, and attempt to save his life with Earthly medicine.
   A heartbroken Elliott watches his friend apparently expire, knowing that the surrounding adults in white smocks plan to "carve up" E.T. in the name of science.
   But the alien regenerates himself, and, with the children's help, returns to the forest and a waiting spaceship. Clutching a pot of flowers given to him by Gertie, E.T. embraces Elliott and returns to his distant galaxy.
   Spielberg's mastery at combining story with special effects has already been shown in such films as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Close Encounters," but the loving care he puts into E.T. gives this film that little "extra" that just may find it a place in cinema history.
   Working with a small budget and cast, Spielberg proves that magic can come in small packages. The design and operation of E.T. (from the talented hands of Carlo Rimbaldi) is just as amazing as the superb performance of young Henry Thomas.
   The rest of the cast is just as natural and believable as the film's setting in a northern California suburban neighborhood. Allen Daviau's photography and John Williams' lilting score add significantly to the enchantment.
   More so than any other current filmmaker, Spielberg reflects a generation with eyes raised to the sky in wonder. As a loving tribute to those who have wished upon a star and dreamed of its inhabitants, "E.T." is more a gift than a work of art. It is also a gift to theatre-owners, as this film is sure to delight audiences again and again, emerging as the summer movie to beat in 1982.
                               David Linck Universal 115 mins.
Tags: Eliot, Spielberg, Henry Thomas, Gertie, Dee Wallace, Robert Macnaughton, Drew Barrymore
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