“E.T… phone… home.”
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that when the “fragile creature becomes sickly because he longs to return home”:
… the “film becomes a twist on The Wizard of Oz: three youngsters help an adult return to his own world (there’s no place like home).” However, “in truth, this film has far more sympathy and understanding of children than The Wizard of Oz, and it’s a celebration of youth and innocence — significantly, unlike in Oz, these children do not ‘grow up’!” He adds that the “film has suspense, wit, magical special effects, [and] numerous scenes that have etched themselves into memories of moviegoers”:
… and while “Spielberg occasionally manipulates us into shedding tears, the film is genuinely sweet.”
Peary goes on to further describe why E.T. himself is so appealing, noting he’s “a wonderful creation with universal appeal — kids respond to him with such affection because he truly satisfies their need for [an] ‘imaginary playmate’, the ideal friend for all kids (especially those who don’t have two parents always there) who wish their stuffed animals could hug them back”.
He adds that “adults, of course, are also taken with E.T. — when he dons a long robe and waddles through the house, he may remind us of our favorite, quirkiest visiting relative”.
Peary also calls out that the “amazing success of the film” is due to “the performance of Henry Thomas”, who “in a difficult part [as Elliott]… is so appealing that we gladly accept him as our surrogate and allow him to fulfill our dream of meeting the perfect alien”.
In Alternate Oscars, Peary names this movie Best Picture of the Year in place of Gandhi (1982), noting that E.T. “quickly emerged as the only figure in 1982 who would have beaten Gandhi in an international popularity contest”. He writes that while Spielberg — who “made the film when he himself was lonely” — “expected E.T. to be a small picture… it hit a universal nerve” given that “E.T. could be seen as a myth figure… It was a picture made for kids, but it had elements to which adults responded more strongly.” I loved nearly all aspects of E.T. when I saw it as a kid — other than the creepy final sequences with adult scientists in suits taking over Elliott’s house, which scared me:
… and I was curious what my reaction would be like revisiting this flick as an adult.
While I’m less enamored overall by the storyline, I can still appreciate the film’s many charms and special qualities, and especially enjoy the collective effort put in by McNaughton’s “naughty” teenage friends in the final sequence to help E.T. to go back home (this circles back nicely to the opening scene of the teens simply sitting around playing cards, excluding Elliott from their fun).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)