Friday, February 12, 2010

Mac and Me (1988)

If you walked out of ET saying "man I wish this movie was more manipulative and sentimental and had more product placement," good news, Coke and McDonalds heard you! The result was 1988's Mac and Me!

Coca Cola's biggest blunder since New Coke.

I know what you're thinking: "it is impossible to be more manipulative than ET, and it was the world's most manipulative thing in the history of the world, nothing could be more manipulative than that!" Well I've got two words that'll prove you wrong: "handicapped boy." Mac and Me took the Elliott character and made him crippled, even going so far as to cast a legitimately paralyzed child as the lead. He.... didn't get a lot of work after this.

Mac gets sucked into a Lunar Lander.

On a desolate tattoine-ish planet, a bunch of aliens that look like a cross between Dopey from Snow White and Romulans from Star Trek roam around. Their life would be pretty shitty if not for the fact that there are apparently underground reservoirs of Coca-Cola that they can drink from a straw. Look, I'm not even kidding. They also speak entirely through whistling. Seriously this is the worst thing ever. A US lunar lander shows up (somehow), causing me to question what planet this could possibly be?! Is Mars full of cola? That Rover we left there probably has diabetes by now.

Anyway the entire family inexplicably gets sucked into the lander (somehow). Later that day, back at NASA (somehow), an Asian scientist is concerned by certain weight imbalances on the lander as it unloads its collection of frozen rocks and microbacteria and such. The four aliens that had previously gotten inside the lander all pop out (somehow), causing an electromagnetic surge that freaks out the scientist and lets the aliens run free. The four aliens get separated and the youngest ends up in traffic.

Mac and Me is sponsored by paper bags. Wait, I mean... coke.

Meanwhile, a single mom with a teenage son and a handicapped son is driving to their new home in California. The handicapped boy blames the teen when his refreshing coca cola is stolen, but actually it's an alien stow-away who was dangerously low on his natural reserves of high fructose corn syrup. The family make the rest of the drive without noticing that a little generic-brand ET is in their backseat.

Crippled boy awkwardly hugs his mom's arms. Fun Fact: Kim Basinger was offered the role of the mom. Instead, she made Batman. Her loss.

They finally get to California and their giant hillside suburban SoCal property. The handicap kid immediately asks "can we afford this?" as though to ask the question that literally every person who is not 5 years old thinks when they see a single mom with a handicapped child move into a ridiculously expensive house that is apparently custom built to not have any stairs and lower than average windows so he can look out them. This unexplained wealth is even more confusing considering the mom's later apprehension at "getting her first job in 10 years" at Sears of all places. Maybe an 18 wheeler slammed into the kid's legs and she's just been living off the lawsuit ever since? Maybe she divorced a charismatic millionaire?

Anyway as soon as they start unpacking the alien pops out and is met by the next door neighbor weird girl, who is dressed like an Indian and looks like the Pepsi girl from those commercials in the 90's (and the movie Bicentennial Man). The teen son finally sees the alien, but only while wearing sunglasses in one of the few bits that actually works. What is it with the 1980's fascination with sunglasses and aliens? The kid has some near-run-ins with the alien, who steals another soda and takes a shower before running off down the fence in the backyard that leads to a nearby CLIFF. Maybe when supermom was spending a fortune on custom-building her house, she should've considered fencing off that backyard?

The mom dismisses crippled boy's fears, saying "maybe some neighbor kid" broke into the house and took a shower. How is that less terrifying? The alien sees the teen using a table saw in the living room and decides to do some re-decorating of its own, trashing the living room and almost putting a drill into crippled boy's head. Of course, when he tries to explain it was an alien's fault, the mom just makes a concerned face.

A clip from Paul Rudd's latest film. Oh wait. And if this is Paul Rudd reading this, stop googling yourself.

Upset about not being believed, Crippled Boy goes out onto the big hill, where he promptly loses control and plunges about 50 feet into a lake. The alien, seeing the kid's dive, pushes the chair that the kid is still in (somehow) to safety, but disappears before the teen and his mom show up. The mom of course assumes this is a suicide attempt. Weird girl and her poofy haired sister who works at McDonalds show up to console crippled boy. Teen brother meets poofy haired sister and it is love at first McDonalds reference.

The mom goes to work at Sears and the brother disappears, presumably going to McDonalds to eat a big mac and drink a coke, leaving crippled boy and weird girl to catch the alien. They leave a trail of coke before catching him inside a vacuum cleaner. It works, of course, since we've already shown the aliens can be sucked into things. But how on earth did the kid know it would work? The weird girl rides the vacuum cleaner around the house, destroying the carpet and causing more damage to the property. The teen shows up as the alien pops out, apparently dead. Fortunately a refreshing coca cola revives him. The mom shows up, but the alien is gone once again.

I don't know how this image could look worse. Seriously, 1988.

We get a weird shot of the aliens in a desert that may or may not be on earth and they do this little weird V shape with their hand that allows their whistles to be heard hundreds of miles away (again, somehow). The next morning, the house is miraculously fixed, and the alien has left a bunch of straws and windmill shaped crap sitting around. The mom finally starts to believe there's an alien when the boys insist that they would never do something so considerate and helpful.

For reasons that I can't begin to fathom, we get a scene where the mom goes jogging along with the crippled boy, who isn't really getting a workout since he's just rolling down hill, while he's followed in an RC car by the alien, who gets chased by an unexplained pack of wild dogs while a song about friendship plays.

What kind of parent leaves their child unsupervised with a filthy, dirty clown?

But look, none of that matters. Finally, the McDonalds birthday party alluded to earlier is happening. It's on! Call your football team, some ballerinas, and some break-dancing homeless men, because it's dance party time! The alien even gets in on the act, because why not, right? Aliens love dancing!!!

More stuff happens but I don't want to spoil the rest of the overlong, melodramatic, ridiculously incomprehensible plot as it develops. Let's just say it involves cross-country travel, daring gas station robberies, and the healing power of coca cola. Again, I am 100% serious here.

Okay, in the interests of being a fair and balanced reviewer, this movie is an assault to the senses, a monumental failure that shows that completely ripping off a seven year old movie in nearly every way does not guarantee big business at the box office. Since it's low-budget and the target audience is presumably mentally underdeveloped five year olds, the effects and camera-work are laughably bad compared to E.T.

Another thing, too much of an effort is made on making "Mac" look "cute." E.T. looked like a giant raisin with a telescoping neck, but big eyes and magic powers made him somehow cross over into being visually acceptable. Here, the cherub-cheeked, ENORMOUS-eyed "Mac" looks like the soulless construct of some sort of cuteness laboratory. All he's missing is eyelash implants and talking animal sidekicks. It's bad enough the story is almost identical to E.T., a movie that was pretty much the standard for "suburban boy befriends alien, gets help from his older brother, experiences christ-like resurrection" story arcs so if you are just going to copy that plot exactly, at least try to make the alien not look like E.T. after plastic surgery.

Also, while E.T. was notable in its use of real products and basically single-handedly put Reese's Pieces on the map, Mac and Me splits its energies to the point that I don't know what to buy any more. Coke? A Big Mac? Skittles? I feel like I need to watch a 60 Minutes special on childhood obesity after watching humanoids ingest these things for 2 hours.

Another shameless product placement, this time for Brawny Paper Towels. I hope the Brawny people are proud of themselves.

On the other hand, it has a crippled boy falling off a cliff. It shows the healing power of coca cola. MCDONALDS DANCE PARTY. I can't hate something this surreal, this completely divorced from everything we know about science, nature, and McDonalds. The greatest crime for a bad movie is be forgettable, and Mac and Me provides just enough "what just happened" moments that even if the rest of the movie is completely forgettable, it can be reduced to a 4 minute clip of impromptu dancing at the McDonalds.

Arbitrary Rating:

3.5 Delicious, Life-Giving Coca-Colas out of 5

(Seriously Paul Rudd stop googling yourself.)


  1. Is there a scene where Mac eats half a Quarter Pounder and has severe diarrhea and disgusting onion breath for the rest of the day?

  2. Actually the yellow truck was a motorized kiddie car, which makes it yet another product that was plugged in this commercialized fart of a movie.... it felt tacky and cheap in 1988 and it hasn't aged well - really it felt like a ripoff that had been made the same year as "E.T." and then shelved for five or six years.