E.T.: The Extraterrestrial – Anniversary Edition (Universal) – Steven Spielberg’s suburban fairy tale for kids who think they are too hip to believe in fairies debuts on Blu-ray in its original, uncut, untampered form.
Henry Thomas is Elliot, an emotionally bruised kid suffering under his parents’ separation who finds and bonds with another lonely, lost soul, a benevolent alien left behind when his spaceship leaves. “I’m keeping him,” says Elliot, but meanwhile an army of government men search for him. As E.T. grows homesick and just plain sick. Elliot and friends need to help get E.T. home.
It’s a fantastical adventure with a grounding in the modern suburbia of divorce and adolescent anxiety, and E.T. is the ultimate imaginary playmate come to life. Part pet, part best friend, part guardian angel with an emotionally symbiotic connection to Elliot, this funny looking stranger in a strange land (think of a squat, mutant teddy bear with lizard skin and monkey fingers and voice between a growl and a purr) is a wizened old grandfatherly being with the trust and playfulness of a child.
Steven Spielberg is a technical wizard without a doubt and he seamlessly brings actors and effects together, but none of the special effects have the charge of Henry Thomas laughing in joy as his bicycle takes flight over the forest and across the full moon. That image has since become the corporate logo for Amblin Entertainment and it’s a little tainted for it, but the excited, spontaneous shouts of pleasure are as genuine as ever.
That’s because Spielberg is America’s most perceptive chronicler of suburban life and an astounding director of child performers. E.T. comes to life in the awe and emotion of his adolescent cast, not just Henry Thomas but older brother Robert Naughton and adorable little Drew Barrymore as his guileless little sister. We believe in E.T. because they do. Seen in the wake of his more ambitious work of late, E.T. comes across today as Spielberg’s last blast of emotional, instinctual innocence and naiveté, and it’s genuinely charming and refreshing.