MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” stars Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, What About Bob?), Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows, The Last Metro), Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Dumb and Dumber), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story, Magnolia), and Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom, Ghost World). It was written and directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Minority Report ). After an encounter with a U.F.O, Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) digs deep into a government cover-up that may prove existence of extraterrestrial life.
When I found out that “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was returning to theaters for its 40th anniversary, I knew I had to jump onboard. No people, I have not seen it before; it’s one of those celebrated Steven Spielberg films that I have yet to see, among the ranks of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” But, what better way to catch this flick than in the theater!? I mean, this opportunity doesn’t come often. The last time it was in theaters, my parents were youngins. Now I hold a ticket to a movie initially released in 1977…truly spectacular. I knew what I was getting into: aliens, a big mountain, and a wicked score. I also knew the ending, which I was told years ago. Spielberg is the filmmaker every person thinks of when asked “what’s your favorite director?” (Unless you’re a film major). He’s solidified his name with “Jaws” and has become more of a presence than Alfred Hitchcock; it’s obvious why that is. His movies are magical, memorable, and, above all, classic. They fill me with the same desires I had as a kid, where I was in awe over the pictures I was shown. Spielberg himself said he is a kid at heart when it comes to making films, and it shows. Watching “Close Encounters” sent me back to a time where I dreamed of big stories that were of wonder. It’s the epitome of discovery and the search for extraterrestrial life, and you can clearly tell where it inspired other filmmakers through its story. I picked out a few movies I watched growing up that pulled from it, and while that may lessen the experience of seeing this all as a “first,” I still respected it’s ingenuity. You have to when you see any classic that has been spoofed or taken from, like “Rocky” or “Jaws.” However, I really didn’t have to give this film that much leeway because of how amazing it actually was. Say what you will about the visuals, but the story itself holds strong to this day, and I was in awe over how spectacular it was. The same feeling I received when I saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park” resonated in my viewing of this picture. It was the discovery of a fossil; one that is a true gem. The story was a marvel. Yes, life on other planets has been said and done a thousand times, but never in this way. The visions of a mountain, the sudden appearance of old planes belonging to missing WWII soldiers, and the insanity of Richard Dreyfuss are difficult to find in the same flick. Every plot device used by Spielberg in his writing, and execution in directing, worked in the best of ways. We saw how a simple man learns of something bigger than himself and how he will go to extremes to decipher what was revealed to him. At the same time, we see how the government has secrets of their own hidden from the public eye. It all gives that feeling of “you can’t trust anyone” and how the biggest mysteries of the universe have already been discovered, but yet to be released to the public. This was made during a time where America was being kept from White House secrets, and knew about it through shocking leaks. What resonates in this film is the curiosity people had at the time: “is there life outside of earth?”; “is the government hiding something from us?” All of this culminates to a beautiful picture that embodies every sci-fi lover’s passion. I loved watching this, not only because it’s an old classic being re-released to theaters, but because of how bold it is. It took risks with a smile and presented itself on a broad level to encapsulate the audience. I was in awe, suspense, and thrills at many different points, loving every moment of it. Spielberg had some filmmaking experience in the tank, and knew that this would be a project he would excel at. Because it was an anniversary showing, I got to see a short documentary at the beginning explaining the production and impact of “Close Encounters.” In it, Spielberg said how he wished this film was made in place of “Jaws,” because it was the story he wanted to tell all along. On a side note, he also stated that he never meant for it to be a sci-fi flick; in his perspective, he viewed it as reality, whereas someone who doesn’t believe in the extraterrestrial sees it as science fiction. It was an interesting documentary, and I was glad to see his process behind it all before the feature began; it brought more pulp to the experience as I was given more depth into what was shown to me. The story, overall, was wonderful. Though I felt like I’ve seen in before through other projects, I know it inspired them, so I give it more respect than distaste (as it should be). The performances within the plot were extraordinary. I don’t really talk about Richard Dreyfuss in reviews or real life, but I gotta say that the man is edging his way into my personal top actors list. He was surreal, insane, and entertaining. Watching him snap made for great moments and he was clearly the bright star of the show. Surprisingly, this movie also featured Terri Garr, Melinda Dillon, and Bob Balaban. All of them were great, as well as the other actors I did not mention. What really fueled the story, however, was the musical score provided by John Williams. Though there weren’t many memorable scores along the lines of “Star Wars,” it was truly fantastic. The man has a gift as we all know. His vision is shared with Spielberg in how this feature embodies a kid’s wonder, and his score attests to that. I’m listening to it now and am loving every moment of it. With all of this in mind, I want to level the playing field of my review so that you all don’t go on thinking this is the best movie in existence. It is surely entertaining and a feature for people to love, but regardless of that fact it is not my favorite Spielberg picture. One day I will review all of this films in a marathon, but for now “Jaws” is still my favorite from ones I can recollect. The reason being is how “Close Encounters” could’ve gone just a smidge further in its story. I wanted to see and learn more about these aliens, though the focus of the script is the discovery of them. That’s fine because this movie was great anyway, but that doesn’t mean I can’t want a little more out of it. Besides that fact, I would also say that there a few slow moments sprinkled throughout the plot, but you find that in any feature (especially ones that are over two hours in length). At the end of the day, it all falls to preference. I love “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but in my opinion it doesn’t reach the epicness of “Jaws.” It surely comes close, and I recommend anyone who hasn’t seen it to watch it now. Spielberg is already a genius, so there is no worry that he’ll disappoint you. I’m severely fortunate for having seen this sci-fi wonder on the big screen. FINAL SCORE: 95%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: