March 28, 2002 – Speculation from the back-row seats on why Universal Studios has brought "E.T." back to a theater near you in a 20th anniversary edition: Well, for box-office potential and product tie-ins, of course. And just because the new technological capabilities are there …
But is it for the aging baby boomers yearning to get back in touch with their inner child? For the kids who saw it two decades ago and now have kids of their own? For the generation-later kids themselves who've never even seen it on video, or taken the bicycle ride at the Universal Studios theme park?
Is it so we can giggle at Drew Barrymore when she was a precocious preschooler? Or nod knowingly hearing Debra Winger as the voice of E.T.? Is it so we can all leave the theater feeling good in an era when we so seldom do?
The promotions for "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial the 20th Anniversary" promise "never-before-seen footage, newly enhanced visual effects and a new re-mastered sound track."
A Hollywood.com reviewer says "apparently 140 shots were reworked, E.T. got a more friendly makeover and a few never-before-seen scenes were added in (like the great scene where E.T. falls into a bathtub of water). True, E.T. looks even more lifelike and you can tell the spaceship had a few more bells and whistles on it, but it doesn't really matter. The film is a pure gem, proving once again what an incredible visionary [director Steven] Spielberg truly is."
Critics are clearly divided into two camps: those who reviewed the original two decades ago and mainly want to reminisce, and those who are doing so for the first time and are dutifully compelled to explain what the movie's about. One thing they have in common: Nobody is giving this film a thumbs down.
For those who've been on another planet for the last 20 years, the story line is that a kid-size alien is accidently left behind on Earth when his fellow travelers depart, and he's taken in by an 11-year-old boy who co-opts his brother and sister into helping keep their new housemate a secret — first from their mom and then from the usual misguided grownups out to get him. Then comes the race against time to get E.T. "home" before it's too late.
Don McKellar, writing in Cinema Scope, calls "E.T." a dog movie: "It's about a boy meeting a dog, naming it, taming it, learning from it and growing up … Of course, E.T. is not just a dog … He can move things telekinetically. Communicate telepathically. Heal messianically. Hold off his excretory needs indefinitely …"
Rolling Stone magazine's critic took a bit more jaded view: "In retrospect, 'E.T.' demonstrated also what a brilliant satirist of the pop-cultural wasteland Steven Spielberg might have been, had he not decided to become its major contributor."
But never mind. If you were attracted to the film 20 years ago, you will be again. And if you've never seen it and don't go see it now, hey, the world won't come to an end.
The film is rated PG. It's playing at Sunny Isle Theaters.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.