Monday, January 29, 2007

Classics Rocked: E.T.

In the hundred-odd years of movie history, certain films have been praised so effusively or so frequently that expressing a negative view of them is nearly unthinkable. Well, as critics, we pride ourselves on not following the crowd, and we're here to tell you why a few of your favorite movies suck. This week, Dr. Worm will rip E.T., Particle Man will bash A Clockwork Orange, and Your Racist Friend will slam Life is Beautiful. But just so your soul isn't completely crushed, each panning will get a brief retort from critics who believe these movies deserve their classic status.

The reputation: A critically acclaimed and well-loved classic about a cute little boy, a cute little alien, and a journey back home.
Why it's not as good as you think: The thing with Steven Spielberg is that he never wants to leave his audience with any doubt about how they should be feeling at a given moment. He's got that trait working at full throttle in E.T., which features a darling little boy interacting with an adorable, big-eyed, glowy-hearted alien. Some of it works, but much of it is just ridiculous and laughable, like the climactic (read: campy) scene in which people clad in space suits break into Elliott's house through the doors AND the windows. Other moments fail the schmaltz test as well, such as poor Elliott--child of divorced parents--finding his absent father's shirt in the garage and remarking plaintively to his brother, "Dad's shirt ... remember when he used to take us out to the ball games?" And when it looks like poor E.T. has finally bit the dust, what brings him back to life? No, not the ceaseless workings of highly-skilled doctors, but Elliott's love. In other words, if this movie were a cookie, and you ate it, it would give you diabetes.

Particle Man's retort: Have you no heart, Dr. Worm? This movie has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a childlike view about things. In E.T., the world is a simple place of bike rides and trick-or-treating. E.T. is the ultimate child; he has rudimentary verbal skills, doesn't understand things outside his own world, and has the courage to be who he really is because he doesn't know how to do anything else. And the fact that Elliott cared so much for E.T., enough to bring him back from the grave, is a testament to the all-reaching power of love, and how it can break through all boundaries. I find it hard to believe that such a sentiment cannot pierce your heart even a little.


Wicked Little Critta said...

I'd like to point out that Dr. Worm is wrong.
Not only in saying that E.T. is anything but a great movie, but his claim that E.T. is brought back by "Elliot's love" is entirely false. If he had paid attention, he'd have noticed that when Elliot finds E.T. alive, he asks, "Does this mean they're coming?" (E.T's fellow aliens) and E.T. responds "yes." E.T could only last so long on this planet. He died regardless of Elliot's love, and was brought to life by the return of his fellow E.Ts.

Dr. Worm said...

Please, I'm not that naïve.

E.T.'s little heart lights up right after Elliott utters those magical three words, so whatever other explanation you give it, the movie is still indicating that love brought E.T. back.

Now some of you, like Particle Man, might find that a heartwarming sentiment, that "love can break through all boundaries." But us realists understand that it's very infrequent that love actually reanimates a corpse.

Stormy Pinkness said...

I have always been under the impression that it is Elliot's love that brings E.T. back. While I do not think that the movie was bad, I also don't think it is as good as everyone else seem to suggest.

jbodster said...

I'm kind of with Dr. W and SP on this one.... I thought the movie sucked. I thought that when I was 10 and I still think that now.

Moshe Reuveni said...

E.T. is one of those childhood experiences that made me feel like a weirdo (greanted, many would say I definitely am one).
I watched it at the cinema, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't really move me the way, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark did not that long before. I was the exception; everyone else just raved on how good it was, whereas I pretty much forgot what the film was about quite quickly after leaving the cinema.
When you're 11 you don't really analyze films that much, but I think I can safely say I'm with the DW camp on this one. But then again by now my impression is that we share camps to begin with, but that's another story.

Wicked Little Critta said...

I can't believe you people.
I've loved E.T. since the first time I saw it, years ago in childhood. I saw it just recently, and still love it. Yes, I see it through different, more mature eyes, but it allows my adult self to remember the things that make up our childhood: hiding things from parents, being tortured by/torturing siblings, riding bikes everywhere, Halloween, pretending to be sick to stay home from school, TOYS...does anyone remember toys? Really?
I agree with PM. It's a great ride, with plenty of humor, suspense, and a lesson in love. As Speilberg said about the film, if an alien and a human boy can look past their differences and love each other, then no two people on this earth are too far apart to do the same. Maybe it's a bit shmaltzy, but I have a special place in my heart for a few such films. And c'mon, how much of a realist can you be when watching a movie about a BOY and an ALIEN?