The Scoop: 1988 PG, directed by Stewart Raffill and starring Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, and Jade Calegory
Tagline: Out of this world and into your heart.
Summary Capsule: DRINK COCA-COLA! There, where’s my $1 million in advertising dollars?
Justin’s Rating: See, my McDonald’s is usually staffed by depressed teenagers, empty nest mothers and senior citizens lugging around an oxygen tank. It’s not prone to being the town’s hottest dance scene.
Justin’s Review: Today was a weird day in my household. You see, I can usually expect my wife to consent to watch what she calls one of my “bad movies” about once a month, maximum. Some movies, such as Gymkata set me back two months or more, depending on the professional therapy required afterward. So it was with some large measure of surprise that my wife happily agreed to watch MAC and Me without any persuasion on my behalf.
Then, I found out why.
It turns out that my lovable yet eccentric spouse is a closet MAC and Me fanatic. She grew up on this film and knows it by heart. When the opening credits started up, she was already doing the weird alien thing that the critters do, where they hold up cupped hands and whistle like wobbly construction workers trying to make the moves on birds. To my further astonishment, I was expressly forbidden to openly mock this movie in her presence, which turns out would have been hard anyway — it was difficult to hear above the sounds of her feminine cooing and delighted giggles.
Oh. Well. Bah humbug. She can enjoy her little cult movie. I’ll just retreat to the internet to get it off my chest.
MAC and Me is most famous for two things, neither of which are being a good film. The first is that it’s a blatant copy of E.T., down to the “stranded alien looking for his family”, the single mom raising two boys who takes in the critter, a death and miracle resurrection, government agents trying to capture the thing, and Ronald McDonald hosting a magic show. Okay, maybe the last thing wasn’t in E.T., but you can’t prove that it wasn’t between one of the scenes!
The second claim to fame is MAC‘s proud product placement: this film is a haven for conversations about and shots of Coca-Cola, Skittles and McDonald’s (among others). I don’t know how many takes it took for the actor playing Eric to say the line “[Coca-Cola] must be like what they drink on their home world!” without falling into hysterics, but I bet it had to be in the triple digits. I’m not really sure I’d ever want to meet aliens who derive 95% of their nutrition from a sugar buzz and caffeine overdose, but if I did, I would be sure to shake any cans I gave them vigorously before backing up and making a dash for safety.
Another surprise was how entertained MAC and Me kept me, despite being a rip-off of a kid classic. There’s always something goofy going on in every scene, from government agents in three-piece suits chasing down a kid on a wheelchair in the middle of a busy street to MAC’s repeated attempts at home decorating. I remember watching this as a kid, but I had no recollection of the McDonald’s scene, which might be evidence of self-induced amnesia.
Speaking of which, at one point, Eric decides he can’t leave MAC at home, or the government will get him. Somehow. So he throws MAC into a giant teddy bear suit, tells everyone that the bear has advanced “microchips” (Man oh man, I love the 80’s attitude about anything computerized), and takes MAC with him to McDonald’s for a birthday party. It all starts innocently enough, but before you know it — and for pretty much no reason at all — the entire place has erupted into a massive synchronized dance number! I mean, little kids, football players (seriously), ballerinas, adults, McDonald’s workers, MAC — they’re all thrashing about to some synth-pop tune like it’s the most natural thing in the world to be doing. If you look closely enough, you’ll see one normal couple trying to enjoy their Chicken McNuggets at a table, all the while feeling like outcast freaks because nobody taught them the correct dance steps. Tacky standards are raised to even higher levels as Eric and MAC flee from the place, and the whole dance ensemble follows them out into the parking lot (!), continuing with their Pied Piper herky jerky. It might just be the single coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.
I haven’t even gotten a chance to tell you about the aliens themselves. Trying to change things up from E.T. just a bit, the aliens are wrinkly, bald creatures with long fingers and large liquid eyes. Their heads carry an interesting rectal metaphor: the backs of their skulls looks like butts, and their mouths… well, let’s just say that “small and puckered” was an interesting creature design decision for Orion studios.
Also unlike E.T., the MACs can use their hands to blow holes through walls, mess with any electrical field, and remote control toy cars. Oh, and their bodies are flame-retardant. I’m not quite sure why the start of the movie shows this family as reduced to desert-dwellers sucking water from the ground through a straw, as they’re clearly our genetic superiors, except for their caffeine addiction. I started to make a connection out loud between the MACs and mosquitoes, and got a sharp elbow in the rib for my efforts. Ooch. All I’m saying is that while E.T.’s odd appearance managed to be cute, the MACs come across as nudist vampiric leeches.
While the producers attempted to clone the whole E.T. phenomenon about six years too late, the end result is a movie that’s entirely unique in its flavor. DRINK COCA-COLA! EAT SKITTLES!
- Coca-Cola and McDonalds allegedly backed the movie, thus the numerous references to both of those products. However, according to Seth Stevenson, “there was no quid pro quo between the filmmakers and these companies.”
- This film ends with a freeze frame and the superimposed title “We’ll be back!” But it proved to be such a dismal box office failure ($6 million) that its proposed sequel never got made.
- Okay, there are a few points in the movie where you go, “Where have I heard this music before?” And it’s only when Eric, in a wheelchair, grabs the back of a pickup truck to gain a speed boost that I went, “BACK TO THE FREAKING FUTURE!” Alan Silvestri pretty much rips off his BTTF score for the “exciting” moments in this movie, but the truck thing? Lame.
- All aliens contain electricity in large amounts. Duh.
- MAC = Mysterious Alien Creature
- I know this is a stupid thing to nitpick, but the U.S. spacecraft part seemed extra ridiculous. First, the craft lands, sans heat shield, on a planet with an atmosphere that is not in our solar system. After vacuuming up the aliens (?) and being on the planet for two minutes tops, it launches back into space, flies sideways even though its only booster is on the bottom, and makes it back to Earth without burning up. So, we’ve mastered FTL travel and invincible spaceships? Nobody told me this!
- The Snorks!
- So how does Eric, Mr. Wheelchair himself, get blamed for knocking stuff off the top of the fridge? Or doing major interior landscaping?
- Coca-Cola! Skittles! McDonald’s! Sears! Valvoline! Chicago Cubs! BUY THEM ALL!
- This single mom can afford a giant house in Sacramento by working at Sears?
- What kind of sadistic mom would buy a house for a handicapped child that’s right next to a steep hill and a cliff? Child abuse!
- MAC gets treed by dogs in full view of the highway and then… nothing becomes of it.
- The sheer awesomeness of the dance scene
- Boy that building sure blew up fast. With a bullet! Supermarkets are highly explosive, so be careful!
- Um, Mr. Doctor? You even gonna try CPR or something? You kinda gave up on him pretty quick there.
- When the MACs are gathered around dead Eric, I MST3K’d, “Well, now it’s time to divvy up the corpse! Yum! Who gets the giblets?”
- So the aliens became U.S. citizens AND got a driver’s licenses, even though they can’t talk?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- *batteries not included
- Predator (why not?)