Twenty years ago, a homesick alien made the cover of Rolling Stone. Times have changed since Steven Spielberg's E.T. was the coolest thing around. Look at the pre-rehab Drew Barrymore - she was only seven when she laid a smacker on the wrinkly blob. She has since moved on to two ex-husbands, including Tom Green. But E.T. stays the same. Or at least he would have if Spielberg hadn't tried to improve his 1982 film for a March 2002 national rerelease. The tenderness of the piece is still intact; the relationship between E.T. and Elliot (Henry Thomas), a child of divorce, clearly mirrors the director's own youthful loneliness and need for friendship. And it's fun to see a deleted scene of E.T. and Elliot taking a bath. But other "improvements" smack of PC revisionism. Elliot's mom once scolded him for looking like a terrorist in his Halloween costume; now she says he looks like a hippie. And remember those guns the feds carried? Thanks to the miracle of digital, they're now brandishing walkie-talkies. Gone, too, is that moment when Elliot calls his brother "penis breath." Is this what two decades have done to free speech? Later, when E.T. debuts on DVD, you can choose between the new version, which better matches E.T.'s words to his lips, and the sweetly clunky, digitally deprived version redolent of penis breath. I don't need to phone home to know which one I'm buying.
(RS 893- April 11, 2002)