E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982) — PICK
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) — PICK
The pain of divorce and anger over paternal abandonment stab through two of the best family fantasy films ever to address the topic.
One is a masterpiece, and the other is almost, but not quite, great — both of which have new Blu-ray editions.
The masterpiece is E.T. The Extraterrestrial, a kind of imaginative autobiography drawing on Steven Spielberg’s youth in the wake of his parents’ divorce, notably an imaginary friend he created to comfort him after his father’s departure.
As magical as E.T. is, the film is raw with pain and anger over Dad’s abandonment of his wife and children for another woman.
So is Mark Waters’ The Spiderwick Chronicles, which centers on angry young Jared (Freddie Highmore), who discovers that their home is besieged by goblins, but protected by a magic circle the goblins can’t breach. Just as Jared’s misplaced hope in Dad — whose departure he wrongly blames on Mom — comes crashing down, the magic circle is broken, leaving the house unprotected from the goblins.
Both films offer suggestive religious imagery. E.T. is a kind of Christ figure, with a healing touch, dying, resurrecting and ascending, while in Spiderwick there is nearly transcendent reunion after death.
Caveat Spectator: E.T. The Extraterrestrial: Mild menace; some crude language, including one infamous obscenity; inadvertent intoxication. The Spiderwick Chronicles: Intense fantasy menace and action violence; some creature grossness.