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A Surprise E.T. Sequel Is Out Now And It's Not What You'd Expect

You've got to love when old friends unexpectedly drop by to visit for the holidays.

On Thanksgiving Day, Comcast dropped one heck of a heartstring-tugging commercial: a four-minute spot that sees E.T. visiting the family of a grown-up Elliott (Henry Thomas) for Christmas.

Now, to be clear, this is an ad for Comcast's Xfinity products, and as such, it spends a fair amount of its run time focusing on how technology — including internet, cable television, VR, and, er, holographic communication devices — can bring families together. But for now-adults who, as children, bawled their eyes out at the conclusion of Steven Spielberg's masterful sci-fi/family film E.T. the Extra Terrestrial way back in 1982, the spot's utterly charming premise is impossible to resist.

In it, a young brother and sister duo are having a snowball fight in their front yard at dusk, when a mysterious glow fills the night sky, causing the lights in their home to flicker. Inside, Mom and Dad take notice — and even though he's 37 years older, it's pretty tough not to instantly recognize Thomas as Elliott. (Maybe it's the haircut.)

Grabbing a flashlight, the kids venture into the backyard, where they spot a pair of skinny alien arms poking out from behind their snowman. E.T. then reveals himself, leading to a hearty and comical round of screaming on the part of all three — until Elliott and his wife show up, at first panicked, then overjoyed. "You came back!" Elliott exclaims, and as E.T. points to the little boy — who looks to be about the same age as Elliott was the last time E.T. saw him — he tells his squat little friend, "My son. My family."

At this point, half of the commercial's audience is already in tears (okay, we admit it, this includes us), but we press on. E.T. accompanies the family inside, and as the adults finish preparing a holiday dinner, Elliott tells him, "A lot's changed since you were here." The little boy shows E.T. how to web surf on a tablet, and then everybody sits down to eat; E.T. cracks everybody up by wolfing down a scoop of mashed potatoes adorned with his favorite treat, Reese's Pieces. After dinner, the kid introduces E.T. to a VR headset, through which he views a Jurassic World-style T-Rex (with predictable results).

The next day, after some outdoor fun, everyone sits down to watch some holiday movies (which Elliott calls up by saying "holiday movies" into his Xfinity remote — nifty). This apparently gets E.T. thinking about his own family, and after everyone is in bed, the little guy breaks out a piece of tech of his own to show Elliott: a hovering, metallic-looking ball that produces a holographic image of (we assume) Mama and Papa E.T. "Family," Elliott says, and E.T. replies, "Home," pointing to the skies. Elliott understands; it's time for E.T. to leave again, and he gives his friend a hug as we all completely surrender to the water works.

The little boy then wakes up, hearing something going on in the shed. Going outside to investigate, he sees that E.T. has dug out Elliott's old bicycle, and we're pretty sure you can guess what happens next. Elliott and his wife are awakened by the sound of their kids' laughter, and as they come running outside, they see E.T. and the children going for a little bike ride in the sky.

Of course, Elliott knows where they're going: to that clearing in the woods where E.T. caught his ride home all those years ago. The little guy has familiar parting words for Elliott's son ("I'll be right here," he says, pointing to the boy's heart), and then away he goes. This time, though, he's left something behind: his holographic communicator, which he managed to slip into the boy's shirt pocket.

If you can think of a more emotionally affecting ad, we'd like to hear about it — and it's no wonder that Spielberg himself apparently signed off on the project. In a press release, Thomas explained why he was on board with the mini-sequel.

"The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people's minds and hearts. It's really a win-win," he said. "Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven [Spielberg] was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn't lost in this retelling."

Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, explained his firm's philosophy in using a beloved piece of pop culture to highlight how technology can help families stay connected, even over long distances. "People don't care about technology inherently," he said. "They care about the way it connects them to other people. This story is an emotional reunion between two characters we know and love. It's a perfect story for the holidays at a time when our emotions are very close to the surface."

Will we ever see an E.T. sequel in theaters?

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one of the most beloved pictures of all time and one of Spielberg's very best movies, and we've got to admit, we're pretty much in agreement with Thomas that this short, sweet revisiting of its story is pretty much all the sequel we'll ever need. There are currently no plans to bring E.T. back to the big screen, and that is probably for the best — especially considering that in the wake of the movie's success, a sequel was almost rushed into production, one which actually might have diminished the impact of the 1982 classic.

That very summer, with E.T. still in theaters, the flick's screenwriter Melissa Mathison and Spielberg wrote a treatment entitled E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears. As you may have guessed from that title, the movie strayed away from the feel-good family vibe of the original, and closer to outright horror. In the treatment, Earth is visited by a slightly different segment of E.T.'s civilization: a carnivorous, warlike bunch whose society has been at war with E.T.'s for years. They're not quite so interested in inspecting Earth's plant life as they are in eating Earth's animal, and presumably human, life; this is a film that may very well have traumatized a generation of children, and if we're being honest, we'll definitely take a four-minute Xfinity ad in lieu of the nightmare that E.T. II might have been. (via Polygon)

At any rate, whatever your opinion of Comcast, you've got to be grateful for this sweet holiday gift. If we could get another short follow-up wherein Elliott's kids call up their little buddy on that awesome holographic device for some help with their homework, that would be cool, too.