Picks and Pans Review: The Special Edition: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

updated 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Maybe it's the box office doldrums this summer or just plain greed. Whatever the motivation, this reissue of Steven Spielberg's 1977 sci-fi hit with a beefed-up ending is far superior to the original. True, much remains the same. Richard Dreyfuss' scary encounter at the railroad tracks, the kidnapping of Melinda Dillon's child and the swooshing spaceships in the night are as they were. But Spielberg has wisely shortened the time it takes to get everyone to the mountain for the big encounter with the alien mothership. The special effects at the end are even more dazzling: Not only do we get a closer look at the friendly space creatures with their kidnapped earthlings, but there's a glimpse inside the saucer itself. Spielberg has been criticized for employing pyrotechnics at the expense of human drama; here he has made a film that is religious in its hope. The notion of movie "special editions" is not to be encouraged: Why go to Spielberg's next film, since it may just be an imperfect first draft? In this one case, however, the revised version merits a second look. (PG)

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