‘E.T.’ Phones Home In Today’s Sick Day Stash

Call them “cult classics.” “Guilty pleasures.” “Comfort movies.” We all have a mental rolodex of flicks that may not be terribly popular but, for one reason or another, they resonate in a very special way. Maybe you saw it at the right moment. Maybe you just see gold where everyone else sees feces. Whatever the case, these are the special favorites that you keep stashed away for sick days. Here are some of ours.

I’ve been racking my brain all week for a good Halloween-themed Sick Day Stash pick. My focus had been on horror movies of course, since this is the time of year when we all dress up like someone or something else and attempt to scare the crap out of one another. Then, on Monday, I got an invite to check out a free, outdoor screening of a childhood classic (thanks to the 45th Street Block Association, 9th Avenue to the River). It’s a movie that I grew up with, one that has a very special meaning. And wouldn’t you know, it’s got a Halloween peg. The movie: Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

Seeing “E.T.” is one of my earliest memories. It was at a drive-in movie theater on Long Island. Back when there were still drive-ins on Long Island. My little sister and I camped out in the trunk of our mother’s (long gone) beige hatchback, wearing PJs and munching on lamb chops. For months afterward, croaks of “E.T. phone home” could frequently be heard in my childhood home.

I remember the joy of seeing Elliott play with his curious new friend, starting with their very first encounter involving a backyard shed and a baseball. The hilarity of the infamous frog scene, when Elliott gets drunk by proxy, frees a classroom’s worth of doomed frogs and kisses the girl on the back of the fat kid. The abject fear at the sight of those government stoolies in their space-age hazmat suits. “E.T.” is in no way a horror flick, but humanity outside of Elliott’s home is portrayed as a terrifying, almost alien thing.

“E.T.” is an unusual Sick Day Stash pick, as it’s not a movie I’ve seen recently. I don’t even own it. Seeing it again though, especially in that outdoor setting, brought me right back to that first experience with Spielberg’s classic. Only instead of lamb chops there was eggplant parm and wine. And instead of guns, there were walkie talkies. Really… what the hell were they thinking there?