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October 9, 2012

Phoning home again: 'E.T.' 30 years later

LOS ANGELES — How old is too old to sob like a little girl at “E.T. — the Extra-Terrestrial”? Not 40, apparently.

The Steven Spielberg film that would become a 1980s pop-culture phenomenon is coming out on Blu-Ray for the first time today — 30 years, four Academy Awards and nearly $800 million after its theatrical release. To commemorate this, theaters across the country recently showed a digitally remastered version of the film for one night only.

Being a total geek for “E.T.,” I jumped at the chance to see it again in a theater. And yes, I dug up my old red hoodie and bought some Reese’s Pieces for the occasion.

Having worked as a film critic for a while now — and with a child of my own — I wanted to find out whether the movie would still have the same emotional impact on me as it did when I was a kid. I wondered whether I looked back fondly at it as a piece of nostalgia, or if the film itself truly was as original, well-made and heart-tugging as I remembered.

Thinking about the movies I watched repeatedly growing up — “The Wizard of Oz,” ‘‘The Karate Kid,” ‘‘The Breakfast Club” — it’s always “E.T.” that stirs something deeply within me. I recall experiencing an aching sense of longing when 10-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas) says goodbye to the best friend he’d ever had — this impish, inquisitive alien from far away — knowing he’d never see him again. I wanted to see whether I’d feel that again — and I was far from alone. My theater was packed with viewers of every type. Some came in groups while others sneaked in alone in the dark; still others brought their own children to share this movie they loved.

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