Home is a Planet Far, Far, Away for a Wee Homesick Alien…
A wee alien makes friends with a kid and his family, but wants to return home.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Official Trailer #1 – Steven Spielberg Movie (1982), HDMovieclips Trailer Vault and photos from Universal Pictures.
Kids driving you up the wall? Raining outside? Fed up of superheroes and light-sabres? I can totally empathise with you, which is why I’m recommending this kiddy friendly movie to entertain your brood. A wee clue… It’s a 1980s classic movie for all the family, and it’s another
tear-inducing one from Steven Spielberg.
The film is E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) with a score from John Williams. It’s especially worth a look now to see just how much the Duffer brothers were influenced by this movie in their recent Stranger Things (2016-) series. Which if you haven’t seen yet, was reviewed HERE.
Many of this film’s lovelier scenes were recreated in this series in almost a homage to this movie. The plot also reminded me a wee bit of The Martian (2015) film with Matt Damon (said in the style of Team America (2004)) but more of my ramblings later.
The film starts one starry night, where some eerie lights are seen in the forest. We see they belong to a space ship parked in the woods near North California. Wee alien creatures are foraging for plant samples near the craft. One explores further afield and observes the view of the town. The wee aliens are disturbed by cars, then men in torches head their way. The wee aliens scurry back to the ship leaving one of their kind behind, as the ship takes off. The men watch it leave…
Meanwhile teenager Michael (Robert MacNaughton) is hanging out with his buddies, playing Dungeons and Dragons (as identified by my Darlin’ Husband). Including a young Thomas C Howell in his pre Brat Pack Days. Long before he starred in a superhero movie. Wee brother Elliott (Henry Thomas) is sent to get a pizza, on his return, he hears some noises from the shed.
Eerily a ball is thrown from the shed and Elliot drops the pizza in fear. He runs in and tells all. Big brother, Michael, his cronies and the token 1980s single mother, Mary (Dee Wallace) come outside with him. All they see is mysterious footprints. Later when he’s alone Elliott meets the alien with both screaming as they come face to face.
The next day, the boys are talking about their plans for dressing up at Halloween with their mum and wee sister Gertie. Playing the wee sister, with two wee bunches and a wee cheeky face and grin is a wee Drew Barrymore in this her fourth movie.
The kids’ dad has recently left and gone to Mexico, a word not mentioned as their mother gets upset. Young Elliot on an all-night vigil at the shed sees the alien and lures it back to the house with sweets. He hides the alien in his bedroom in his toy cupboard. Meanwhile, the men with torches are examining the site where the spacecraft landed.
Elliott then fakes illness and like all 80s mums (in films only
sadly) is given a day off school. He talks to the alien and teaches him about some of the more modern things from Earth. He then introduces him to Michael and Gertie who screams. And screams. As wee 6-year-old girls do.
The siblings promise not to tell their mother about it and the alien indicates to them using visual cues that he has come from a different planet. The next day the alien is home alone, so we see that his feelings, thoughts and actions are mirrored by Elliott.
The alien cures a dying plant, drinks some beers, reads comic books about wee green men and watches romantic films on TV. Elliot still at school, acts almost drunk lets go of the frogs in the science class and plants a passionate kiss on a classmate in time with the movie.
At home, Gertie has arrived with her mother who gets a phone call from the school about Eliot’s behaviour. Meanwhile, as the alien waddles around the house, he is completely out of his mother’s line of vision and with some great comic timing he is avoided being seen by her.
Gertie and the alien hang out together, during which she dresses him up as a cowgirl with a wig and makeup. She talks to him with her speak and spell, and they talk learning the alien’s name is E.T. E.T. tells Elliot that he wants to phone home, an expression he learnt in a comic book… and meanwhile the house is being watched by a man in a mysterious van.
This is a lovely Spielberg film, that I remember watching and enjoying at the cinema on its release. With the first scenes showing the aliens merely as wee silhouettes foraging in the forest, it builds up the suspense and story much more, than in certain monster movies.
These beginning scenes are seen from the viewpoint of this alien. It was interesting seeing how the family related to the alien in relation to their ages, role and gender. Elliot saw the alien as a peer, sharing about his life on earth and the pair share joint experiences.
This with a lovely scene where they go cycling together – with that iconic full moon, a boy with a hoodie and his bike with a bicycle basket silhouette – then magically take off into the air in the moonlight. Big brother, Michael was more protective of E.T. as the man of the house and big brother. He and his friends look out for E.T. from possible dangers.
Gertie was as all wee girls saw him as a wee fun buddy to dress up, complete with makeup, handbag and blonde wig. Which I know would have been most of us girls a possible first play session with a friend at that age.
When his mother meets E.T., her maternal instincts to care for him are strongest, as are the wistful longings of Peter Coyote’s scientist. I’ve also loved watching this movie with the stepdudes after finding this movie dubbed into Finnish.
As a family, we watched it with English subtitles. The elder kid was more interested in if E.T. would die, while the younger kid was mesmerised to the point of almost tears (but then he was really wee then).
The film also reminded me of The Martian (2015) – but with a few differences – where both the titular leads are unintentionally left alone on a planet, have to cope with life there and communicate with home to return there. In E.T. the relationship is touching between these apparent loners, an alien and boy have as the pair become close friends. The acting of all was wonderful and it’s a great film for the family.
It also struck a chord for me in the opening scenes as an expat where E.T. is left on an unknown planet. I empathised with E.T. not knowing about the culture (he allows himself to get dressed up as a girl by Gertie, something I’m sure some wee alien or non-alien boys might protest at). He learns also about ways of life on Earth (he unintentionally gets drunk) and longing for his home (repeatedly saying phone home).
The alien also learning the inhabitants of this new world’s language. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to learn – like me – the Finnish verbs tavata (to meet) and tappaa (to kill) which cause lots of confusion and would have led to a completely different movie. As I found when writing in my When Harry Met Sally (1989) review HERE.
This is easily my favourite roles of Drew Barrymore. I loved her wee role as a child star, as Gertie. It was shocking to learn that she was 6 then and is 42 now, as this movie has an almost timeless feel to it. Unlike other movies from the 1980s such as St Elmo’s Fire (1985). Drew then went onto star in other movies and has been executive producer on others such as Donnie Darko (2001).
She’s even sung in a few films. One of which admittedly was a guilty pleasure at one point. This was in Music and Lyrics (2007) a rom-com, where she and Hugh Grant (yes, that said Hugh Grant) sing, write songs together and fall in love. But I couldn’t put my Darlin’ Husband through this movie.
But I must confess I’ve never really been a huge fan of hers, especially in her collaborations with a man who I promised never to mention. But I did enjoy her childhood performances especially this one. As I identified with Audrey in National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) as a teenager, here I could relate to Gertie in her scenes with E.T. as a 6-year-old girl.
But there is one thing, as a wee often-homesick alien in Finland would like to thank Drew for as a Scottish expat, for drawing the world’s attention to the difficulty with the Finnish language. Where in Charlie’s Angels (2000) the Angels speak in Finnish in one scene.
This film is based on the seventies TV series Charlie’s Angels (1976-81) which the introduction spiel is kind of ironic for me, in that once upon a time I was one of three little sisters who lived in Great Britain. We each were assigned very different duties. But I was taken away from all that, and now I live with him in Finland. His name is Darlin’ Husband.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂10
Hulk Rating: /10
This was my review choice for the Third Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon run by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Other reviews with this cast include Drew Barrymore in The Screaming Woman and Scream review. Henry Thomas stars in Misunderstood. Peter Coyote stars in Jagged Edge.