Spielberg kept in "penis breath" but deleted the shotguns. He added about four minutes of footage, most of which looks like a Coke commercial. Otherwise, not much has changed, except two decades of history.
Where were you when E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released? Chances are you werenít even born or cognizant. The rest of us languished or thrived in the dawn of the Reagan era, and we needed a sci-fi reprise of the Christ myth, especially one with huge corporate and merchandising tie-ins.
As I watched this film 20 years later, it was chastening to note how little of what innocence we once possessed has survived. The thought of suburban kids harboring secrets in their closets seems a little disturbing after Columbine. A distracted, even neglectful mom like the one portrayed by Dee Wallace-Stone (whose subsequent career has included playing the heroís stepmother in TVís Bad As I Want to Be: The Dennis Rodman Story) seems a bit sinister in this age of Andrea Yates. And as for harboring an illegal immigrant sought in a massive federal manhunt, donít even think about it.
In retrospect, E.T. demonstrates also what a brilliant satirist of the pop-cultural wasteland Steven Spielberg might have been had he not decided to become its major contributor. The first two-thirds of the film is a hilarious, incisive dissection of what it meant to be a middle-class adolescent overwhelmed by Dungeons & Dragons, video games, trash TV, anomie, and Reeseís Pieces. The only lapse in this section now is the added footage, dithering bits between Elliott and E.T. in the bathroom; like the padding in Apocalypse Now Redux, they merely underscore the weaknesses of the movie, its cuteness and sentimentality. But not enough to dim such classic moments as when Elliott (Henry Thomas, last seen as Matt Damonís sidekick in All the Pretty Horses) tries to explain the items in his room to his extraterrestrial visitor and it all comes down to food, war, and automobiles ó the Darwinism of postmodern capitalism.
E.T. also has a scene that is perhaps Spielbergís most personal. Elliott and E.T. have at this point formed an ambiguous bond, and while Elliott is in a biology lab about to dissect a frog, E.T. is exploring the family refrigerator. He finds a six-pack of Coors, and as he gets hammered, so does Elliott. In a bizarre spasm of parallel editing, E.T. watches TV and comes up with the brainstorm by which he can "phone home"; meanwhile Elliott drunkenly frees all the frogs. All well and good, but Spielberg then has Elliott mirror scenes from a TV broadcast of The Quiet Man, engaging a blonde classmate (called "Pretty Girl" in the cast list, she was played by Erika Eleniak, who would become the Playboy Playmate of the Month in July 1989 and star in Baywatch as "Shauni") in a precocious mating dance. In the end, a torrent of frogs leaps from between Pretty Girlís feet. It is worthy of Buñuel.
Such surreal inspiration canít last, of course. The final third of the film sinks into the shameless emotional manipulation that some mistake for its greatness. That honor, of course, goes to the three-and-a-half-foot-tall star. No, Iím not referring to the phallic-fingered, poached-egg-eyed homunculus of the title. Iím talking about seven-year-old Drew Barrymore. In the best child performance of the past two decades, she brings imponderable subtlety to lines like "A deformed kid" and "I donít like his feet." E.T.ís last words to her are "Be good," and we all know how seriously she took that advice.