Mac and Me (1988)

Just keep him dancing and they’ll just think it’s a teddy.

Dir. Stewart Raffill

Runtime: 95 minutes

Rating: PG

Starring: Jade Calegory, Lauren Stanley, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary, Christine Ebersole

Next time you want to win an argument about the worst films, if nobody already has, try dropping “Mac and Me” into the argument and see what happens. Regarded as one of the worst films of not just the 1980’s, but modern cinema, this film is part rip-off of other successful films, and part advertisement for the American fast-food industry. Having watched this film in the 1980’s, I subjected myself to another viewing 30+ years later – why oh why did I did that??

NOTE: If you see references to McFood, Kola-Kola, or Skuttles in this blog, it’s because this film is a shameless advertisement as it is without me writing the company names and giving them a free mention. I’m pretty certain you’ll know which products/companies I mean anyway without me justifying their names, and it’s not limited to those 3 companies either – anybody who’d pay gets a mention in this film.

Summary:

On a dying planet, an alien family are looking for water to drink using their straws. A NASA research probe accidentally sucks them in while taking atmospheric samples. The probe returns to Earth with the alien family aboard. Most of the alien family are able to escape from NASA, however the alien child wanders off the wrong way and hides in a minivan being driven by a single mum and her two children who are relocating to California. The youngest son, wheelchair bound Eric, is suspicious about odd things happening and together with his new friend Debbie, he traps the alien child. They befriend the alien child, and he calls it MAC (mysterious alien creature). NASA and the FBI are hunting for MAC so Eric and Debbie go on the run. They go to a McFood restaurant to get Debbie’s older sister Courtney, then meet up with Eric’s older brother Michael. They evade the law and hunt for MAC’s family to reunite him. When they find the family they are dying from dehydration, so the kids rejuvenate them with Kola-Kola. The FBI tracks them down and a shootout begins in which Eric is killed. The MAC family use their alien powers to bring Eric back to life, and in reward they are given American citizenship and are allowed to drive off into the sunset in a Pink Cadillac wearing human clothes.


… or… here’s a summary in 180 characters or less…

Ripping off E.T. and advertising American fast food, this 1980’s alien adventure will leave you wondering why you sat through it.


I was ‘lucky’ enough to sit through this in the 1988. It was a friend’s birthday, and his mum rented a handful of films for his party – rather than watching the animate series of “Pole Position” (circa 1984/85), or “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), we foolishly opted for the cover that had a ‘cute‘ alien on it. I remember watching this and thinking it was pretty ‘lame’, but then I would go on to enjoy gory horror films in my teens!

While I have a lot of negativity about the film(which will become clear), there is one thing that I want to mention and that is the cast – or at least one of them. In the lead role as Eric, Jade Calegory is depicted as using a wheelchair. Unlike a lot of films in the 1980’s this was not an act, Calegory had spina bifida and used a wheelchair in real life. Calegory performed a lot of his own stunts too. Now, on the more sinister part of this – I have read some reports that suggested that some of the producers aimed for casting somebody with disabilities even if they had no previous acting experience. They wanted to draw the audience’s emotions and pity, something that happens more than once the way the film is set up. Worse still; after being the central character in this film he was tossed aside for a lot of the marketing campaigns and never really used. Terrible ethics by corporate American greed and a money-making machine.

The acting in general was not awful, slightly on the cheesy side, but not as bad as something of the films I have seen. Unfortunately, no level of acting could have saved the film because the dialogue that the actors were spouting was terrible – blame must be put on the shoulders of the writers for this. I am going to give them a get-out here though. The director was brought in at the last minute to do the film, he found that the rest of the crew had already been hired by the producers. They also mentioned that there was not a script so the director, along with Steve Feke, had to come up with a script very quickly. Which is why it sucked balls.

The special effects are pretty lame. I know there were limitations in the 1980’s but there are films which do really well. Where they have potential problems, they use creative methods to overcome it. Here however, it looks like nobody cared, like it was acceptable that it was bad. This is not just in the special effects either, the practical effects are cringe-worthy. The aliens are terrible – their weird naked bodies and googly faces are supposed to be cute or endearing – but they look frightful at times.

Let’s got onto the real issues though – and for me there are two massive elephants in the room.

  1. This was a straight up rip-off of Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra-terrestrial” (1982). It is practically the same movie, just using an alien that looks cuter, and a child in a wheelchair to draw on emotions more. Shamefully it’s the same story of a child alien being separated from its family, adventuring to be reunited with them thanks to a child/children that befriend it.
  2. In case you miss it – this is a 95-minute advert for American fast-food, particularly McFood’s, Kola-Kola, and Skuttles. If the name of the alien doesn’t inspire you to eat a cheesy double pattied burger, then seeing the fun party at a McFood’s restaurant, complete with dancing clown, might drive the kids into pestering parents to take them. If you weren’t thirsty before the film, then seeing how Kola-Kola gives life to aliens at the end of the film might just make you yearn for the wonder substance. It’s not just those, why not nibble on some Skuttles in-between McFood meals to keep the sugar levels high.
Disguised as a bear and leading the McFood dance-off

So how exactly did this become a massive marketing campaign? One of the producers previously worked on campaigns at McFood’s. He mentioned that their corporate figurehead, Ronald McFood-Clown, was more popular than Santa Claus, and that “E.T.” was a close third place due to its cinematic success in 1982. So, there was an idea floated around to make an “E.T.” of their own in a kind of cross-promotion with the fast food giant. Although it was denied, McFood, or at least Golden State Foods (a food distributor linked to McFoods) partly funded the film. For fear of turning this film review blog into a soapbox on which to stand and discuss what is and isn’t wrong I need to refocus on the film – and just to confirm, it sucks. It sucks more than a patron sucking a McFood’s milkslurper who has just reached the bottom of the McFood’s cup it came in.

Would I recommend this film? Well, if you are competing with friends to find a bad film then yes. If you want to watch a film which is supposed to be serious but might just having you in ironical stitches of laughter because it is so bad, then yes. If you want to watch this as a serious film and think that it is a good alternative to “E.T.” then keep moving. If you want to suspend your disbelief without getting angry and wanting to throw something at the TV, then this isn’t a good idea. This film doesn’t have many redeeming features and there is a reason that various film forums rank this in the top 10 worst films not just of the 1980’s, but of all time. I didn’t enjoy watching this in the 1980’s when I was a child – I haven’t enjoyed re-watching it 30+ years later. If I live out the rest of my life and don’t watch this film again, it’s been a good life – sorry, that’s harsh, but I really didn’t/don’t like this.

(1/10)

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