This year marks 35 years since the release of E.T., Steven Spielberg’s greatest child friendly movie, if not one of the greatest movies of all time overall. In recent years, film aficionados have tried their darndest to dismiss Spielberg as an overrated hack who works in sloppy sentimentality like Van Gogh worked in oils. E.T. in particular has been retconned as an exercise in fooling audiences into mistaking empty nostalgia for actual human emotion. To this I say cram it, nerds, it’s still a great movie, and Spielberg is still a great director, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull aside.
It also, of course, spawned a number of atrocious rip-offs, including Nukie, and the even more infamous Mac and Me, one of the most cynical children’s movies ever made, where fully half the action takes place inside a McDonald’s restaurant. One could even make the case for surprise TV smash ALF being, at the very least, inspired by E.T. The basic plots are the same: an alien ends up accidentally left on Earth and is taken in by a human family, where he quickly bonds with their young son. The family must go out of their way to hide the alien from shady government agents who mean to do it harm. Where E.T. sends the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride through wonder, terror, grief, and joy, however, ALF was mostly just about what happens when you splice a teddy bear with Borscht Belt comedian Shecky Greene, and give him a long, phallic nose.