Too Agitating To Be Great.
Kids will forever ruin movies for me, but so do aliens that play tubas.
American Film Institute’s Ranking: #64/100
Awards: Nominated for eight winning one for cinematography
Nestled within all the classic Steven Spielberg movies (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T., Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) is this little egg of a movie recounting human contact with aliens. It’s kind of the forgotten child of his filmography, and I came into it knowing very little other than its spiritual sequel Super 8.
Overall, it’s a fun little ditty that has some amazing individual scenes and sequences that craps all over the endless CGI vomit of today.
However, there are some personal distastes that this movie puts on a pedestal: too many annoying kids; boring domestic disputes that end in yelling and crying; the powerless female in said domestic dispute. Adding this to the spell-breaking ending, I realized I was half pissed off for too much of this movie for me to consider it great.
Ever want to know what would happen if Aliens decided to fixate on a cable repairman?
[ANALYSIS AND SPOILERS]
Let’s eat the reverse of a compliment sandwich:
The Kids Are Awful.
I have a secret I want to share: I fucking hate kids in movies. Put a kid next to you at the dinner table and you’ll have hours of uninhibited fun. Put a kid on the silver screen and you’ll be looking for a sharp instrument to jab into your eyes.
Why can’t anyone get this right?
Yes, kids are selfish, annoying, needy, whiny, screechy, and typically little shits, but they also have some good aspects, too. For some reason, that later part never gets shown in movies; every kid is just a projection of the worst possible traits, and we are somehow supposed to ignore it because they are “innocent.”
Take the Neary family for instance.
They watch their dad descend into madness, and this is supposed to invoke empathy for they are just children unable to take care of themselves.
Well too bad they spent the first half of the movie making me hate all of them. One blood-boiling-packed scene has one child repeatedly hitting a doll on the side of a rail making a loud bang, another feigning idiocy to not do homework, and ends with them all yelling and wreaking havoc.
If I was Mr. Neary, I would have abandoned them long before the aliens contacted me.
Some Scenes Are Gripping.
Take your pick of classic, iconic moments. For me, it’s Roy Neary when he’s in his truck:
So Much Yelling.
Something has happened to me when it comes to the “domestic dispute” scene.
I have in my memory banks thousands of stored images of that set-up. I bet the tv show In the Heat of the Night supplied at least hundreds of them alone. It’s always the same: the guy is deficient in something, the woman yells, he yells back, the kids then get upset, the woman slams the door, the guy feels worthless, and then the woman cries.
I hate it.
I HATE IT.
There is no reason for it. It adds nothing. It’s not believable. It’s trite.
Alien Band Camp.
I know this was supposed to be a hate sandwich, and I’ve already been through the bread, but there is more that I dislike, so maybe it’s more like a hate stromboli?
The ending of the movie is almost exquisite. You feel the electricity of meeting something completely “other.” The man bangs away on the electric piano, using the soundwaves of music to communicate to the aliens.
They respond with…A FREAKIN’ TUBA?
Not some synthesized note or space-sounding vibe. A tuba. Not many things break the spell of watching a movie like something as out of place as this.
My friends and I used to love digging into old shows with their plot holes and campy scenarios. When the aliens started pouring out of the space ship choosing the aforementioned Roy the Cable guys as the next human they wanted to get to understand, I couldn’t help but imagine we were all back at VCU drinking and laughing.
I mean come on! Look at all these miniature humans with long faces they are trying to sell to us as aliens. This is a crime of imitation and incredulity at a point in the movie where it needs to have you completely gripped.
Three star recipe: 1/2 cup great mixed with 1/2 cup bad.
Other People’s Takes:
- Coog’s Review: “Overall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is easily one of Steven Spielberg’s best films.”
- The Movie Maestro Blog: “This film is all about the childhood wonder of the world around us, and as Roy walks into the light, joining his metaphorical Gods as an orphan would his long-lost parents, I still shed tears of joy on my living room couch.”
- The EOFFTV Review: “It’s not at all clear why the aliens should feel the need to trash poor Roy’s van this way nor what they’ve got against road signs that makes them so angry but it’s a fantastic sequence and the first indication of just how weird things are going to get both for Neary and the audience.”