What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate is not being done as part of a blog-a-thon. Instead, this is a monthly event hosted by MovieRob called Genre Grandeur. The way it works is every month MovieRob chooses a film blogger to pick a topic and a movie to write about, then also picks a movie for MovieRob to review. At the end of the month, MovieRob posts the reviews of all the participants.
For May of 2022, the honor of being the “guest picker” went to Matthew Simpson of Awesome Friday The topic is “Movies Nominated For Best Picture But Didn’t Win.”
In my first installment in this series, I attacked a movie which has become part of the American holiday season cultural fabric. Since then, I’ve teed-off on several films considered to be “classics,” or just “fan favorites.” Some generated more “hate mail” then others, but I have a feeling my thoughts on this film might “red-line” some folks.
That’s because E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial is almost universally loved. Roger Ebert included it on his List of Great Movies, and based on how it reads, he had to have been touching himself when he reviewed it. Like It’s A Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz (don’t worry, that shit-pile is also on my list), somehow this movie ascended to being a rite of passage. Some would say your childhood cannot be complete without seeing this movie. Some like Ebert have it on their various movie lists. As mentioned up front, I don’t.
In classic movie parlance, let’s just “cut to the chase.” I’m pretty sure I’m the only person one earth who absolutely fucking hates this movie. Here’s xxx reasons why.
1) It’s a badly-disguised “kids” movie
There’s absolutely nothing wrong telling a tale from the perspective of a child. When done right, a movie can become a vehicle which transports adults back to those pivotal “coming of age” days. E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial completely misses that mark. While it honestly attempts using to use the innocence of childhood to temper the rampant cynicism of adulthood, there’s a major reason why the film putts so short of the cup.
Yes, it gives us the requisite characters who are still children, but understand just enough about the adult world to believe they can manipulate it to get what they want. After all, the main thrust of this movie is a bunch of kids who are simply trying to help their new friend from outer space. Everybody can relate to that, and at first the playful, “cutesy” nature of the film starts to suck you in. But then the needed level of “sweet” and “sentimental” pole-vaults into an over-whelming torrent of sappiness like if you “Frisbeed” two pancakes into an oil tanker full of Mrs. Butterworth’s (more on that in a bit).
2) It’s a badly-disguised “kids” movie, Part II
I can’t be the only person who sat through this movie and saw a modern version of Old Yeller. Seriously, all you have to do is change the setting from Texas in the 1860s to southern California in the 1980s and change the dog to a space-alien, and the basic thrust is identical. It’s a “boy and his dog” movie.
Think about it. E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial is 100% about boy meets
dog alien, boy forms attachment with dog alien, boy loses dog alien, and along the way learns a valuable life lesson. In other words, E.T. is just a dog who can make a bicycle fly (that’s another problem I’ll address later).
But the real problem here is that “life lesson” thing. Spielberg backed himself into a corner knowing this movie would never work with a sad ending, but that’s exactly where this movie spends two hours going.
At least Old Yeller offers a hard lesson on reality and how you can’t always fuck around with the natural order of things no matter how good you think your intentions are. If only Elliot ended up having to put a bullet into E.T…
3) This movie is deliberately 100% pure sap
Again, since this is a “kids” movie, it requires a certain amount of “sweet” to do it’s job. Again, it goes out of it’s way to go over the top…and it goes waaaay beyond the “kid” thing. Frankly, it’s really about the movie’s main character.
E.T. is so freakin’ ugly that he’s actually cute. It’s not just the big, blue eyes. It’s not just his inherent vulnerability in his voice and his waddle. If’s not just his big beating heart. Top it off with the “hiding in the dolls” scene, put it all together, and what do you get? An alien completely engineered to make every eight-year old in this country destroy his parent’s bank account buying eleventy bajillion pieces of “E.T ” merchandise.
Spielberg wasn’t stupid, he saw the billions George Lucas made flooding every store on Earth with every form of “Star Wars” crap. That’s why he made sure his alien was the complete opposite of Ridley Scott’s super-terrifying “Alien.”
4) Selling Diabetes By The Pound
By now, most people know this story, but it still rates right up there with “New” Coke in terms of monstrously stupid product marketing decisions. If you don’t know, the placement of the candy Reese’s Pieces in this movie made that brand. The producers originally wanted to use the more familiar M&M candy, but the Mars company turned them down. Thanks to that combination, America now has more than one candy-coated shit-pellet taking us all to hyper-bloated blood sugars where our feet fall off.
5) Even More Crass Commercialism
Being essentially a two-hour infomercial for 1982 makes this movie nearly impossible to watch now…even if I wanted to. But if you do, get ready for a frenzy of product placement. We’ve already discussed Reese’s Pieces, but do you remember the hand-held “Speak and Spell” to communicate with his fellow aliens.
But the worst of all was the video game this movie spawned. Every kid in America who had an Atari 2600 hundred ran out and bought it…then proceeded to toss it in the trash. Even worse still was as the “word of mouth” got out, the sales completely dried up. In fact, the word is so many copies of this disaster went unsold that it started an environmental catastrophe of it’s own. Atari ended up dumping thousands of plastic game cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico…the same state which has the Roswell Alien Zone.
Oh, the irony…
6) The type-casting of Dee Wallace
A recurring feature in the “Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate” and “Classic Movies My Wife Hates” series is a phenomenon I call “reverse typecasting.” This happens when when you see an actor who played a role in something which became part of this country’s cultural fabric, and even when you see them in something made before their face became associated with an iconic character, that’s all you can see.
That brings us to Dee Wallace. While for most of you she may be the “mom” from this movie, for me she will always be “scream queen” producers would use when they couldn’t get Jamie Lee Curtis. That’s why she shows up in creepy shit like The Stepford Wives, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Howling. That’s probably also why Spielberg himself took her back to that genre in 1983’s Cujo.
If only E.T. had taken a chainsaw to her…
7) The “Professor on Gilligan’s Island” Problem
There’s the old saw about the “Professor” from the classic 1960s sit-com not only can build a radio out of a coconut, but somehow manages to power it with no appreciable source of electricity. Sure, there might have been a few Duracells on the Minnow, but how long were they on that goddamn island?
But nobody seems to notice E.T. has exactly the same problem. Am I the only one who noticed that he can make a bicycle fly, but whenever he;s being chased all he does is waddle quasi-helplessly? He has the telepathic ability to make flowers grow, but he has to “rig” a Speak and Spell in order to communicate with his fellow supposedly-also-telepathic aliens? Don’t even get me started on his “healing” powers, which apparently only work on the most minor of problems.
Not to mention…in the “how did the Harlem Globetrotters and a Soviet cosmonaut get on and off that island?” category…am I really supposed to believe a 400-foot wide, nightly-glowing spaceship appeared over the San Fernando Valley, and none of it’s two-plus million residents saw a fucking thing?
The bottom line: I understand that E.T. can’t be “cute” and have the ability to fire a death-ray from his glowing finger, but he can’t even come up with the “Jedi mind trick?” Weak…
8 ) Hallucinogens anybody?
Did you ever wonder how Spielberg came to what E.T. looked like. My theory is Spielberg was a huge fan of Sid and Marty Krofft. If you’re not familiar, the best way to describe the Kroffts is they were a cross between children’s television and a “Hendrix at Woodstock” level of LSD. You can see this in two of their more recognizable characters, Sigmund the Sea Monster and H.R. PufnStuf. Don’t even try to tell me E.T doesn’t like a combination of the two.
Start with Sigmund’s googly eyes and overall sliminess, and end with PufnStuf, who likely started as a psychedelic version of McDonald’s “Mayor McCheese,” but morphed into a multi-colored penis. That’s entirely fitting because…
9) I can’t be the only one who sees the “penis” thing
The only reason you can’t see E.T.’s resemblance to a penis is because you don’t want to see it. The elongating neck, the mushroom-shaped head, come on… This movie came out when I was a kid, and believe me, we all noticed it. In fact, we wondered if “E.T.” was an acronym for “extra testicle.”
Everything about this movie is completely detestable. Even the 20th Anniversary remake was horrid; it actually found a way to make this even more craptacular. Spielberg “cleaned up” the movie by over-using CGI (see my comments on that on my list of favorite directors). Worse yet, he replaced the “bad guy’s” guns with walkie-talkies. But easily the dumbest thing he did was removing the single funny line in the entire film…where Elliot calls his brother “penis breath.”
Think about, Spielberg circumcised a “dick” joke, but but only amplified the dick-like nature of his main character. All during the 20 years between the original and the re-make, the phenomena known as E.T. spawned an ass-flavored peanut-butter candy, the worst video-game ever made, and two decades worth of kid-alien slop like Mac and Me.
Screw that. Give me the remake where E.T. eats Elliott’s face or the scientists fillet him like a Mississippi catfish.
I would have waited twenty years for that.
You can see all the movies I hate here.
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