With Speed Racer coming out this evening, it's a time to remember cool kid-friendly scifi of the past — like The Incredibles and the Power Puff Girls. But it's also time to excoriate hideous kids' scifi of the past, just to remind ourselves what to avoid when we go looking for flicks to share with our small pals who haven't spent that much time on Earth yet. That's why I want to invite you to my personal E.T. the Extraterrestrial hate-fest. Hated it as a kid, hate it now. But . . . but why? How could I despise something so cute?! I'll give you nine big fat reasons why.
E.T. is penis-shaped for no reason. His face looks like a genital. His neck elongates. And there is NO good reason. You think kids won't notice the penis thing? Give me a break. When I was a kid, that was like all we talked about. I'm fine with throwing penis jokes and fart jokes into kid movies — that's the stuff of life. But doing it without any self-consciousness? Makes director Steven Spielberg look like an amateur. Makes the movie even dumber because kids can actually legitimately make fun of it for containing penises that the grownups DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE WERE THERE. C'mon grownups — get with it.
E.T. is too cute and too ugly at the same time. We've already established that E.T. looks like an unattractive genital. At the same time, he is way to freakin cute. What the hell with the waddling and cutsey voice and big giant eyes. Big beating heart? Gross. I am barfing now. Plus that egregious "looks like a toy" scene, where he hides in with the dolls? Puh-leez.
To make matters worse, the 20th Anniversary Edition of ET was redone with CGI and censorship. OK, look, grownups — trying to fix up an already too-cute/too-ugly E.T. by adding crappy CGI ain't going to cut it. Seriously, he just looks way lamer. Meanwhile, Spielberg decided to clean up the movie by replacing the bad guy's guns with radios in one scene (what? you think kids don't know those are really guns?) and then taking out the ONE funny line in the whole movie, where Elliot calls his brother "penis breath." So you take out the one intentionally-funny penis reference, but leave in the penis-shaped alien? WTF, people?
Power of healing sucks. E.T.'s one super-power is healing and making flowers grow. LAME. Healing is totally great and all, but how about combining it with the power to blow shit up or shoot giant knives through his long froggy fingers? Or maybe the power to build big lasers that kill the bad guys with their "radios."
Too similar to Old Yeller. Does it really count as a scifi movie if all you've done is take the plot of Old Yeller — boy meets dog, boy loses dog, boy learns life lesson — and transpose it onto an alien crash-landed on Earth plot? Why not just go see Old Yeller if you want to see cute little boys crying over nonhuman creatures? Just because E.T. helps Elliot fly on his bicycle doesn't make him a better dog than Old Yeller, OK?
Spawned worst videogame ever made. The E.T. videogame wasn't just the most hideous thing ever mde for the Atari 2600 — it was the worst game ever made in the entire world. Rumor has it that it sold so badly that most of the cartridges were turned into landfill.
Product placement frenzy makes movie dated and ridiculous. In their craven desire to get commercial sponsors for E.T., producers decided to use very specific brands in the movie. Elliot feeds E.T. Reeses Pieces (at that time a new candy), and E.T. uses a Speak and Spell handheld "game" (also new in the early 80s) to communicate with his alien buddies. Having these very 80s-specific products in the movie pushes it into retro-cheese territory rather than "movie for all ages" like, well, Old Yeller. I got a hint for you: If you want kids to enjoy your movie for decades, don't use it to advertise products that will look so retarded to kids twenty years later that they won't be able to decide whether to laugh at the penis-headed alien or the lameass Speak and Spell toy.
Two decades worth of kid-alien space movies I blame E.T. for all those crappy kid-alien movies (and ALF), but not for XTRO, which is like the very best alien-kid movie ever.