Hollywood, if you haven’t heard, is facing complete IP failure. That’s because of a lot of the IP getting turned into reboots, remakes, sequels, and requels would be better off as a 4-minute little commercial like “A Holiday Reunion.”
What happens when E.T. and Elliott (Henry Thomas) reunite decades later in a 4-minute short movie funded by Comcast Xfinity? Why, they sit down and watch some cable TV, of course.
However, if you can look past that bit of synergy Xfinity’s new short “A Holiday Reunion” – which premiered on NBC, Syfy, and the XFinity website yesterday – is a truly lovely tribute to Spielberg’s classic and certainly a better sequel than the one we almost got in the ‘80s. (More on that here.) In this version, we see an entirely plausible answer to the question of what would happen if Elliott grew up, got married, had kids and then reunited with his old childhood friend. Why, E.T. would just go bike riding with Elliott’s kids, of course.
Here’s the full movie:
Truncated versions of this short will air across the cable and internet spectrum through early January. Comcast is even going to put it into some movie theaters to play during the commercials before the trailers. So, if you arrive early you might just get to see “Holiday Reunion” on the big screen. This doesn’t, however, mean “Holiday Reunion” should be considered a proof of concept for E.T. 2: iPhone Home. No, this means nostalgia is sometimes best contained to 4-minute little intervals.
The vast majority of people who see this are going to watch it online where it costs them nothing, a reminder that there’s a huge difference between getting us to talk about a viral video on social media and getting us to devote several hours of our life toward actually going to a movie theater and spending actual money on tickets and concessions. It’s ok if nostalgia is sometimes contained to TV ads.
We’ve seen this before. Last year, Google put Macauley Culkin in the old Home Alone house to help sell the Google Assistant:
Two years ago, Danny McBride and pretty much every famous Australian actor of the last two decades (the Hemworths, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Isla Fisher, Ruby Rose) starred in a fake Crocodile Dundee movie trailer that turned out to be an ad for Tourism Australia:
That was around the same time The NFL Network put together a series of fake A Football Life episodes about Jerry Maguire characters:
In 2014, Sean Astin reprised the role of Rudy to help explain the hilariously complicated College Football Playoff system:
In 2012, Old Navy reunited the Griswolds.
What happened in several of these cases is the videos came out and people online claimed, “If they made an actual movie out of that, I would go see it.” Thus far, only The Griswolds have put that to the test. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo returned to pass the baton to Ed Helms (like the 16th actor to play Rusty Griswold) and Christina Applegate in 2015’s Vacation, which did ok for itself ($105m worldwide off a $31m prod. budget) but has gone quickly forgotten. No sequel appears to be forthcoming. (Talks of a Vacation TV series also fizzled, although isn’t “family vacation goes haywire” the exact premise of TBS’s The Detour?)
Disney+ has likely cracked the code by pushing forward with a Home Alone remake that will be a streaming exclusive. If you can make it almost as easy to watch a new Home Alone movie as it to watch a YouTube video of Macauley Culkin playing Kevin McCallister again to hawk a Google product, then maybe you’re on to something.
In general, Holywood doesn’t know how to tell if anyone actually wants more of something anymore. Instead, there’s a constant philosophy of “what was once good and popular can surely be popular again, no matter what.” These fun, reunion shorts at least act as a market test. If a short Home Alone video can go viral, maybe that does mean there’s an appetite for a full movie. That’s more research than usual for an industry that made Dumb and Dumber Too.
However, it’s ok if these things stay where they are. There’s a limit to modern nostalgia. For example, when Taylor Swift references, among many others, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, that doesn’t mean we should rush out to find the next Audrey Hepburn for a remake. It just means movie references are fun, and a flash of recognition and smile on the face of those who get the references doesn’t translate to any actual desire to pay money to see more.
By the same token, pop culture would have been perfectly fine watching Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey in a Charlie’s Angels-themed music video. A full movie, though? And the pop singers aren’t even it? Meh.