We’ve all likely had a pet growing up. Depending on a variety of factors, including the living space of your family, allergies, and personal preferences, you probably had an animal that required some amount of responsibility. Birds, fish, dogs, cats, reptiles, and rodents are all common pets for children. The challenge with some children is the animals that they bring home to claim as their pets. The age-old cry of “can we keep him?” is all too familiar to parents who are unsure of the ability of the child to care for such a creature. But what happens when said creature is an alien from another world? There have been numerous books about raising the common pets, but keeping an alien as a pet is quite the challenge. This week’s two films highlight what it’s like when an alien is brought home as a pet.
Lilo & Stitch
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours
One of the challenges with some pets is understanding their past. If they were found by animal control and brought to a shelter, there’s no telling what that pet has experienced before being adopted by a family. Past owners may have abused the pet, or never disciplined it properly, or just happened to lose it. While there are a lot of common pasts for pets with unknown origins, alien pets are usually a lot more complicated. Sometimes there are rules involved with their care that are a little out of the ordinary (like in Gremlins (1984)). However, nothing is worse than bringing a pet home from the shelter to only find that its original owner wants it back. In terms of alien pets, this is likely, more often than not, the case. But what if you were able to convince this alien owner that the pet is better off with you?
Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is excited to go to the animal shelter on Kauai where her sister is allowing her to get a pet. Almost immediately, Lilo is drawn to an odd-looking blue “dog” and takes the animal home. This creature was hit by a car and brought into the shelter with no understanding of his origins. Naming the creature “Stitch”, Lilo introduces him to the Hawaiian society where she lives. From Elvis Presley to surfing, Stitch is educated on how to behave, since he has been continually ornery since coming home. Stitch’s behavior, and the fact that he’s a fugitive alien who is being chased by galactic authorities, gets Lilo and her older sister in trouble with social services. When the truth is revealed to Lilo about Stitch, she pleads her case on his behalf. As a result, she gets custody of the prisoner and the family is able to patch things up to remain together.
E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours
How often have we seen children find an animal outside and secretly bring it home to make a pet out of it? Most of the time, these animals are harmless. Insects, small lizards, and amphibians often find their way into our homes by the children who still want to play with them. However, the feral cats and dogs that are found and brought home end up being a little more troublesome. Children can often sense when they’re doing something wrong by bringing home a pet. They will do their best to hide the pet in their room and provide it with the care it needs until the parents are ready to accept the child’s hidden responsibility. Of course, things get a little trickier when an alien is involved. Hiding an alien can be difficult, but once it is found out, then a lot more people than just the parents will get involved.
In the backyard of his California home, Elliot (Henry Thomas) is surprised to find a strange creature in his family’s tool shed. Luring it inside with some candy, Elliot spends the next day home from school by faking being sick so he can interact with the creature. After his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) are introduced to the creature, all three of them decide to keep it a secret from their mother. Because of Elliot’s initial interaction with the alien, he develops a link with it that causes him to act strangely. Unfortunately, this also means that, when E.T. (the name Elliot gave the alien) becomes ill, Elliot does as well. E.T. determines that his only hope is to contact his kind, which he manages through a unique contraption he created. By now, the authorities are involved and it takes a bit of luck to escape and get E.T. to the landing zone so he can go home.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 amiable aliens