With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: “ET.”
Steven Spielberg just pumped out two big family movies for the holiday season with "Tintin," and "War Horse." "Tintin," of course, is the more kid-friendly movie, provided your children are devoted fans of old Belgian comics (and what modern child isn't?). "War Horse" is a much more serious undertaking, but Spielberg took pains to make all of the war violence in the movie implied rather than shown in graphic detail, which is why the movie got a PG-13 rating. More than any other filmmaker, Spielberg excels at telling stories that depict the dramatic transition from childhood innocence to hard-won adult maturity. Spielberg has made so many movies about growing up that the movies themselves have become a milestone of American childhood. Virtually every person my age grew up with "ET" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Personally, I look back at those movies as crucial moments in my personal history, moments that revealed ideas and themes I hadn't thought of before. So, with that in mind, let's look back at "ET," which remains the quintessential Spielberg family film, and see if it's okay for your little kiddies to watch.
The “Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?” Factor: Probably. If you're like me, you've seen "ET" enough times to never have to see it again. But if you haven't watched it for a while, it's still as emotionally wrenching as ever. ET looks a little rubbery, but that's a nice change of pace from all the CGI creatures that have invaded your local multiplex of late.
The Fatherless Child Factor: Huge. Elliott grows up in a single-parent household, and "ET" represents Spielberg's attempt to come to terms with his own parents' divorce when he was a child. All of the feelings of alienation and anger in the movie are genuine enough to sting. Children of divorce may be affected by the film in ways they can't express.
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: Does ET dressing up as a woman count? I feel like that probably shouldn't count.
The Scare Factor: Two-fold. First off, there's the scene where Elliott discovers ET, which scared the living daylights out of me when I was a kid (and scared me again once the movie was released on home video). I think I cried when that happened. I swear I can't remember. I'm not trying to be Mr. Tough Guy. The second reason that "ET" is frightening is more thematic. The scenes at the end, with "ET" dying and Elliott dying next to him, are terrifying. That might be the first time your kid thinks about his own mortality and the mortality of people he loves: family and pets and everyone else. Also, there are the evil men in Hazmat suits coming to take ET away from Elliott. Again, scary. I don't like men in Hazmat suits coming and getting me.
The Violence Factor: When the DVD for "ET" was first released, Spielberg had the guns airbrushed out of the evil Feds' hands, much to the chagrin of purists. Well, Spielberg has said he regrets the change, and the guns will be back in the Blu-ray edition. So you know, hide your kids' eyes from the scary guns that are never used.
Age Range: 7 and up.