True story: I saw Mac and Me in theaters when I was 6 years old. I was visiting my grandparents in Virginia Beach and spending the day with my grandma, mom, and sisters, and since everything else out in the theater was definitely not kid-friendly (the weekend it opened, August 12, 1988, here were the other movies on offer: Clean & Sober, Tucker: The Man and His Dreams, Young Guns, and The Last Temptation of Christ), we bought five tickets and went to an afternoon matinee of Mac and Me. And being 6 years old with the cognitive power of a bowl of soup, I enjoyed it because it was a movie I went to see with my grandma and mom in the theaters.
Of course, I was wrong: Mac and Me is a complete garbage can of a movie, a sub-basement ET: The Extra-Terrestrial made in cooperation with McDonald’s (hence the prominent product placement of McDonald’s throughout and–apropos of nothing–an entire dance number that takes place at a McDonald’s) and a naked cash grab to ride off the success of ET six years after that film was released.
It made $6.4 million during its theatrical release, which is a surprising amount until you figure there were a lot of 6-year-olds visiting their grandparents in early August 1988 and only adult films were apparently in theaters at the time. Even with that total it was considered a box-office bomb, which makes one wonder: how much did this piece of crap cost to make? Unfortunately those numbers were never released, but if the budget was more than ten cents it was nine cents too much. Then again, they had to split the profits with the Ronald McDonald House(!) so if you figure that after the theater takes half, and the RMH took their vig, that only left about $1.5 million for Orion Pictures, the studio that made this film.
Speaking of which: how was this film made? Scant details are available on that front, but the director actually had a fairly decent career before making this movie. Stewart Raffill made a few family films in the late 70’s and directed two pretty excellent movies that were released in 1984, The Philadelphia Experiment and the cult sci-fi comedy The Ice Pirates. But after Mac and Me, which he also co-wrote, his career took a bit of a nosedive, directing Mannequin 2: On The Move before helming the Wesley Snipes vehicle Passenger 57 in 1992, his last true hit at the box office. Raffill rounded out his career with a mixed bag of family-friendly films, made-for-TV dreck, and–strangely enough–erotic B-movies.
Oh, and his Wikipedia is totally written and curated by him, highlighting the “successes” of his career the way one punches up a resume filled with less-than-stellar positions. For example, this is how his Wikipedia covers Mac and Me:
“Stewart Raffill directed and co-wrote (with Steve Feke) Mac and Me (aka MAC and Me), a 1988 American science fiction adventure film about a “Mysterious Alien Creature” (MAC). Variety Magazine Weekly Edition’s headline read “Mac and Me is Making Splash in Foreign Bows.” Mac & Me was first released in 1988 by Orion Pictures and a portion of the film’s profits went to the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities. It received very negative reviews in the United States and shows a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; calling it “a shameless rip off of Steven Spielberg’s ET.” In 2015, the New York Times reported on Mac and Me’s release by MGM Home Entertainment, stating “it tells the story of how a stranded young extraterrestrial finds friendship with a handicapped boy in Southern California. Poor man’s E.T.!” Mac and Me has earned mostly five-star customer reviews on Amazon as well as a loyal fan base. The film continues to have distribution by MGM Home Entertainment.”
Now, Mac and Me might have a “loyal” fan base by now, and has even earned some five-star customer reviews on Amazon, but it’s certainly not because the film is an underrated masterpiece: people like this movie because it’s like watching a version of ET made by people who hate themselves and everyone else in the world.
And with this frame of mind, it’s a fun watch precisely because you wonder every frame just why any of it is happening. Who made these decisions and how did they think this was going to be appealing to anybody? To really delve into the film, however, let’s just watch the whole stupid movie and pick it apart piece-by-piece. Yes, this is a recap, so settle in for a far too in-depth look at the 1998 cinematic abomination Mac and Me.
Mac and Me — Awesome Garbage
Hey, did you know this entire film is available on YouTube? If you ask me, even free is too much for this movie. My hourly rate is worth at least three DVD copies of this alone, so unless this article gets 50,000 views I’m losing money here. Then again, I’ve lost money on far stupider endeavors in my life (I saw Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in theaters, after all) so let’s call this a wash.
Anywhoo, we open on heavenly harps and some bull-hockey synths as the camera pans down to an alien landscape where what looks like inside-out people wander the wasteland scavaging for water. Ever see The Man Who Fell To Earth? Like that but shitty.
Kill it with fire!
Anyway, these grotesques suck water out of the ground with a straw and whistle when a probe of some sort lands. The ugliest things I have ever seen (these being the aliens) saunter up to the probe cautiously and throw a rock at it, which makes its camera and radar flicker to life because that’s not how any of that technology works.
I swear, these alien beings look like the skin suit Buffalo Bill was trying to make in The Silence of the Lambs. The probe begins digging into the ground and taking samples and Jesus Christ on a cracker, these aliens are just goddamn repulsive to look at. Why don’t their mouths ever close from an O-shape? They’re like the lowest-selling sex dolls of all time.
Anyway, this probe for some reason has a vacuum attached to it, and this sucks up the aliens like this is a goddamn cartoon. What the hell is this? For some reason the probe blows a gasket and takes off because that’s not how science works either.
Not the only thing in this movie that sucks…
The credits begin and it already feels like far too much money was spent on this movie. Like, they didn’t have to provide a proof of concept or sketches or even a script. Someone just heard “ET made money” and threw money bags at them until they were knocked backwards out of the office.
The movie begins proper, with science people disassembling the probe and talking about how they hear some crazy crap going on inside the probe and it’s all very Wargames-looking. Science nonsense is jabbered about to pad the scene until the stupid-looking aliens are revealed and this is some slow-moving garbage. When are we gonna get to the fireworks factory?!?
The scientists unscrew some stupid panel on the probe and it goes haywire and lo and behold the aliens start coming out, only not in a cute way but how the alien baby burst out of John Hurt’s chest in Alien. The room is filled with steam and the grown man(?) alien batters at the glass and smashes it and is jangling around like a skeleton at the end of a stick. These creatures are making me barf in my mouth looking at them. These hairless, destructive monsters that blow a hole in the side of the facility and emerge from foggy backlight and I’m left to wonder how–or why–this was to be considered a family film.
Michael Jackson could do no wrong in the 1980’s.
The titular Mac jingle-jangles away from this scene, flinging itself around like a crazy monster in yet more insane rubber special effects until it literally bounces into the road and is hit by a car, where it is flattened on a windshield and freaking out a dad and son due to being a monstrosity. This causes a destructive, awful car crash and I wonder how many people have already died at the hands of the these demons.
Speaking of which, Mac creepy-crawlies up from the front of the car all disoriented while the kid in the front seat–who I think was in some commercials when I was a kid–looks on like he’ll be describing this to a therapist one day.
We’re introduced in another van with our main characters–a mom, teenage son, and younger son–in a van, and oh boy, Mac has dropped into their car! I sense hijinks ensuing! Some dude in short pants checks out the car with a flashlight but nah, Mac is just there to gank the kid in the wheelchair’s Coke with its disgusting long arm. Mac burps from the back and everyone in the front blames each other, but Mac is just laying in the back seat like it already owns this family. Zooming into Mac, he has a flashback to his life (or his family’s current state of affairs?) in the desert, and they are disgusting and look like if my brain turned into a person only it kept the consistency of matted cauliflower instead of becoming an actual person.
Eric–the main character–wakes up the next morning and looks around on the car and says, “hey, look at all the cars. This looks pretty nice,” which–what the fuck does that mean? I live in New Jersey. There are a shitload of cars in this state, and let me just say: Elizabeth, NJ does not look “pretty nice” even though there are a lot of cars there. Also, what the fuck? Mac is still hanging out in the back seat without anyone still noticing. It’s a goddamn van, not the Taj Mahal. Surely someone has been in the back seat in the past 9 hours.
So, here’s where it has to be addressed: Eric, the Elliot character of this movie, is in a wheelchair. The actor had spina bifida and was actually paraplegic, and this is a really interesting detail incorporated into the movie, particularly since you rarely see any film where the main character is handicapped in this manner. But I’m not exactly sure what the filmmakers had in mind with this choice. Was it to evoke sympathy? To bring something original to the screen? Was he the forerunner to “Wheels” in the Burger King Club? History is eternally covered to us by a veil that we can only decipher through the vague symbols it leaves behind.
“The history of thought, of knowledge, of philosophy, of literature seems to be seeking, and discovering, more and more discontinuities, whereas history itself appears to be abandoning the irruption of events in favor of stable structures.” – Michel Foucault
Anyway, the kid’s in a fucking wheelchair. It colors the movie in very subtle ways: tables throughout the house are low, there are ramps throughout, and in general there are some elements of this film that are surprisingly progressive. If only it wasn’t in this particular film. But I also have to add: if your kid’s in a wheelchair, why did you buy a new house on top of a cliff with no railing in the backyard? This becomes one of the most notorious plot points of the film later on, which I won’t spoil here, but it raises yet another question that I’m going to ask in all seriousness: was Eric’s wheelchair meant to be like an Elliot’s bike he’s permanently affixed to? Serious inquiries only. Also: we’re only 16 minutes into this movie and it feels like an hour has passed.
[Editor’s note: at this point, the writer stopped the movie and didn’t return to it for two days]
Anyway, they unload Eric and find some daffy girl across the road that has a tee-pee and says she’s “communing with the Earth spirits,” which, what? Eric’s brother dumps a bunch of boxes on top of Eric and wheels him inside, and then Mac–who looks like chewed bubblegum–exits the car, with that odd girl across the street spotting him. Is that the only reason she exists, to spot Mac? Our spies say yes.
The family gawks at their new house while Mac is literally ten feet behind them, and he gets hit by the door, which is funny? The mom emphasizes to Eric that there are no stairs in the house, low counters, and he can see out any window, which I guess is considerate but it comes across as awkward dialogue in an already outrageously awkward movie. What happened to Eric? The actor that played him had spina bifida, but was Eric crippled in an accident, one that perhaps took his father’s life? This movie won’t tell us and I’m trying to distract myself with these kinds of questions while attempting to avoid looking at Mac directly.
Mac permanently looks like the drugs are kicking in.
Eric is wheeled into his room but wait a minute, there’s a damn window in that room that’s not eye level to him? What the hell, movie? Anyway, Mac is spotted for a second by Eric’s brother, whose name I have already forgotten, and this gag goes on for too long to unappealing results. Eric’s hanging out in his room taking out stuff from boxes when Mac–that glassy-eyed freak–comes up behind him. Hey! Eric’s looking at a photo with his dad in it! Why won’t the movie address what’s happened to this man?
This ET-like business of Mac sneaking about while Eric is distracted is rather annoying, and Mac observing Eric playing with a remote-controlled car (while eating Skittles because of course product placement is everywhere in this movie) ends with him activating the stupid remote-control car by zapping it with his undefined powers. This wigs Eric out and seriously, Mac is literally within everyone’s eyeline but remains unseen. He turns on the TV with more of his unknown power while it’s unplugged and this leaves Eric confused but accepting this bizarre situation like a boy who may have watched his father die in a horrifying car accident earlier that year.
He hears a noise from the bathroom, as the shower is running (wait, he has his own bathroom? Lucky kid.) but there’s nothing there. Undeterred by slow pacing, Eric follows wet footprints around the house that lead to the fridge. Nothing’s in there, but perched on the top of the fridge Mac knocks everything over and jumps off. Eric wheels it outside and continues following these footprints but that weird little girl from earlier is hanging out saying hey your weird little friend went down the hill. Eric covers and says that weird dude’s my brother and she’s like that’s pretty fucked up. Oh, and my name is Debbie and this is my older sister Courtney so we can have analogous distaff counterparts to the male protagonists in this movie.
Eric’s brother (whose name is Michael, which I couldn’t remember even though that’s also my name) says this is all horseshit and his mother concurs. FADE TO that evening, and Mac is asleep outside and my god, why doesn’t this ugly little freak ever close its mouth? Mac gets spooked by a wolf howl and runs back up to Eric’s family’s house and we get a stalker-cam of what he sees inside. Michael is using a blade saw in the living room because why not while his mother hangs pictures. Jesus, Mac is an unnerving creature to look at.
Eric has punked out from doing any work in the new house and is just laying in bed like a real lazy bones while his mom comes in and says stop being such a bitch and lying about something you’ve seen that scared you out of your mind, OK? Meanwhile, Mac is getting his serial killer on by espying Eric from outside through the window. Mac whistles into the air and his monster family–who are running through the desert-whistles back. What is this? Is this supposed to come across as magical? More like magical bullshit.
Mac and Me: Portrait of a Serial Killer
CUT TO the next day(?) and that radio controlled car is zipping around on its own, which arouses Eric’s suspicion. Eric gives chase and the soundtrack sounds like a rip-off of Back to the Future while the cinematography is clearly cribbing from Spielberg. This should make the movie somehow good but it ends up making me angry that I’m not watching Back to the Future or a Spielberg movie.
This movie really is a blatant rip-off of ET, with Mac doing all sorts of shady garbage around the house for no real reason. He’s redecorated the entire inside by bringing plants and rocks in from outside and is in general destroying this family’s house. He saws a goddamn triangle into the front door and Eric gets a good look at him, but instead of immediately puking he looks…neutral. Meanwhile, mom sees the inside redecoration that little freak took upon itself to do and she has a major freakout, as one would. Michael says what the heck happened and he just looks at his family like, “I’m in a fucking wheelchair, do you think I did this somehow?”
“Do I look like a landscaper to you, lady?”
Eric wheels it outside and goes down a steep path behind his house which, why would you buy house on this kind of topography if your son is in a wheelchair? It’s literally on the edge of a canyon. The little girl next door follows Eric from a distance while Eric becomes distracted by Mac’s incessant whistling from an unseen location.
And then–because this is the most famous scene in the movie and it deserves to be talked about–the brakes on his wheelchair give way and he starts flying down the hill. I really want to talk about this moment for a few reasons, one of which being: why would they have this scene in the movie? It’s literally a children’s film that has a scene of a handicapped kid racing out of control down a steep incline and surely to his death. What narrative purpose does this scene serve that a number of other scenes couldn’t? How come they couldn’t just introduce Mac to Eric in a normal way, like in the five scenes before this where Mac is just playing grabass for no reason inside the house?
The little girl sees Eric just plummet to his death and it’s goddamn insane. Fans of Conan O’Brien will recognize this scene as the one Paul Rudd plays every time he’s on the show in lieu of showing a scene from his latest movie, which is a gag that only gets funnier and funnier each time.
Of course, Eric doesn’t die because Mac is hanging out on the banks of this river, sunbathing or something, and while the handicapped boy struggles and flails in the water Mac just stands on the bank looking like a goddamn goober. Eric’s mother starts running down the hill with Michael and Mac is taking his sweet time before jumping into the water to save Eric. He does, by literally wheeling Eric onto the bank in his wheelchair while Eric’s mom is convinced Eric tried to kill himself. A family picture, everybody!
[Editor’s note: at this point the writer stopped watching the movie again because it’s just the worst and took a few hours off to reflect on what he’s doing with his life before returning to the film, this time armed with some booze to fortify himself against the never-ending onslaught of garbage that’s being depicted on-screen]
After the paramedics file out and Debbie gives her statement to the police, a doctor prescribes Eric some sedatives(!) after dismissing his mother from the room and hearing Eric’s crazy story about seeing a creature and I’m still wondering what the hell it is I’m watching.
Debbie, the fink, enters the room and Eric says hey why didn’t you tell people what you saw? Debbie says nah, all these people are losers and also I don’t want to help you anyway. Eric says hey man, I’m gonna catch that little garbage pile and prove it. Then Debbie’s sister comes in–dressed in her McDonald’s outfit–and Eric’s invited to a birthday party the next day. Then Michael saunters in and meets Courtney and they get all gooey-eyed and Debbie wedges in a Big Mac mention because that’s what McDonald’s paid good money for, after all.
The Next day, Michael is driving his mother to her new job and she’s still wigging out because her life is falling apart. So what’s her new job? Working at Sears! You know, that place you get your tires changed and where your grandparents shopped before they died? After kicking mom out of the still-moving vehicle and mentioning this is her first job in ten years (with still no mention of what happened to dad), Michael has this dialogue with his little brother:
You know what I feel like?
A Big Mac?
The man is a genius!
So that’s two Big Mac references within three minutes. McDonald’s: Eat Here Or Go To Hell! It cuts then to a weird scene of Mac looking like something I ate and dropped scoping out the traffic on the freeway and….that’s the end of that scene. Did the editor fall asleep at this point?
Back in Eric’s house, the Steadicam winds its way through the house so the director can prove he went to film school, which is just Eric-Cam, who’s on wheels so his whole perspective in life is the Steadicam experience. He’s set up traps around his room to catch Mac, and Debbie knocks on his window to enter the scene. This is some clumsy staging. Lo and behold, the creature that escaped from my nightmares shows up and their plan is to suck Mac up into the vacuum cleaner, which, what? How would they know that would work? Did they see the first scene of this movie?
Mac’s sipping on a soda and is looking like an atrocity equal to the Holocaust and Debbie and Eric burst out of the closet, where they suck Mac up into the vacuum cleaner. But this makes the vacuum cleaner go nuts and for some reason it’s strapped to Debbie’s back, and general insanity occurs, including her legs going ragdoll when she rides up to the ceiling and comes crashing down on the floor.
Based on how Debbie’s legs look during this landing, Eric won’t be the only one in a wheelchair in this movie.
The vacuum cleaner is chirping and wiggling and then goes into overdrive before burning out. With a hazy smoke-covered backlight that looks like if Spielberg directed television commercials, Mac emerges from the vacuum cleaner. This monster is lying prone on the floor and Eric gets him a drink–specifically a can of Coca-Cola because it’s called synergy, people!
Michael deduces this freak is what the government men were looking for back at the accident they witnessed earlier in the movie and oh no, mom’s home! Mac fucking cheeses it because he’s a giant coward and Michael looks stupid because he was trying to show mom that little freak exists but because there’s nothing there everyone looks stupid. Also, Eric is stuck on the floor without his wheelchair and again, what kind of decisions were being made on the set? The scene cuts to the next day and I’m dismayed to find out the movie’s not even half over yet.
Mac-Cam is active and his disgusting stretchy arm zips into frame to take the morning newspaper and he reads the front page because….wait, he can read English? What the hell? The device that Eric hooked up in his room–the Mac Notification System?–starts ringing and he wakes up. It’s just a string that leads out of his window to an indeterminate location and I have no idea, this is a plot hole that the filmmakers never bothered to explain. Oh, and Mac cleaned up the insane mess he made in their house. He left some pictures out that he tore out of the paper to…tell them something? Mom thanks the boys for cleaning up and Michael tries to tell her it was the creature and…you know what? I’m going to paint broad strokes from now on because this movie’s interminable.
Mac’s disgusting family’s out in the desert dying, which is nice to see, and I refuse to believe that nobody brought up in pre-production how sickening and ugly these creatures are. They put their hands up in the air like they just don’t care and whistle along to contact Mac. The music is telling me that this is very dramatic and moving but instead I feel sick to my stomach looking at these monsters.
Eric and Mac go on a wheel/jog together and this film moves forward at a breakneck pace. Meanwhile, Mac has stolen a child’s Power Wheels and is racing around like a maniac while a pack of dogs chase him. How did they ever get the money to make this movie? Anyway, Mac flips the thing and ends up in a tree and it looks like it’s lights out for him while Eric and mom wheel/jog past him and a thoroughly terrible pop song begins to play. And then more footage of Eric and mom on their wheel/jog. And Mac stuck in the tree. And more jogging and wheeling. And then Eric sitting at the dining room table playing with a straw. I’ll say it again: what the hell am I watching?
Anyway, Eric is going to that stupid party that was mentioned a few scenes earlier and while everyone leaves their house, the water and power company show up and some government goon begins to give the third degree. Turns out that goon was the same guy they saw at the crash site checking out everyone’s cars and then Debbie shows up and this is just exhausting to watch.
Government Goon walks back to his car and says, unequivocally, that the creature is here despite having no evidence to suggest that. More ET-like ripoff stuff happens, with Mac hanging out inside the house and making sculptures out of straws and him enjoying Coca-Cola. But Mac is sick! Just like ET was! What a fucking joke this movie is!
But Debbie and Eric have to get to this damn party and Eric has to go because Debbie’s mom is looking after him that day, so Eric has to make some quick moves here, especially so they can sneak Mac past the government guys that he doesn’t know are hanging out inside his house. So how does Eric sneak Mac past everyone? By dressing him up in a bizarre teddy bear outfit. What the? I feel like I’m under the influence of powerful hallucinogens. Mac looks like a goddamn serial killer in that teddy bear outfit since his eye holes are jaggedly ripped open and his freakish blue eyes are glaring from inside. The government guys follow them because they have no reason to but this movie has to get to its conclusion somehow.
Somehow Debbie’s mom doesn’t notice the stupid “teddy bear” is moving under its own power in the back seat but there’s no time to talk or think about this any further because the most insane thing in this movie is about to happen: the giant dance party that’s happening at (where else?) McDonald’s! In the parking lot of a McDonald’s a group of totally 80’s fresh and funky people dance to music that categorically cannot exist outside of 1988, and inside the McDonald’s there’s Ronald McDonald performing tricks and a big ol’ birthday party is happening. And the Ronald McDonald from the commercials at the time guests stars!
If only there was some way to know where this funky fresh fun is taking place!
Mac stretches his freak arm across a long table to put the grab on a Coca-Cola and nobody’s vomiting! A dance contest is starting at McDonald’s and Courtney is working at McDonald’s and literally everyone is dancing around, standing on tables, and doing a choreographed dance…in McDonald’s. I have no idea what’s happening and think I’m having a stroke. Even Ronald McDonald himself is dancing! Complete insanity. I spoke too soon, though, because now Mac is dancing on the counter in the teddy bear suit to the music and that is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I start to think that maybe I’ve gone completely nuts and this is my life from now on. The length of this dance scene certainly suggests as much.
The government guys storm in looking for Mac but they’re slowed down by the massive dance party that’s going on outside of the McDonald’s so now Mac and Eric wheel away down one steep incline after another, with nothing suggesting that Mac is actually doing anything to help Eric in this dangerous chase.
I’m really surprised the makers of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial didn’t sue this movie since much of this film is pretty much a beat-for-beat retelling of that movie, only made by far less talented people, but I guess they didn’t want to formally be connected to this film in any way. Eric ends up at Sears because these companies paid good money to appear in this film and besides, they needed places to set these scenes anyway. Meanwhile, Eric races past mom while the government agents–who seem to be defunct Keystone Cops–slide and slip around this Sears like ball bearings have been let loose.
Oh God, why is all of this still happening? A big, dumb chase ensues involving Eric, Michael, Courtney, Debbie, and Mac, and who could care less? The government agents let slip to their mom that her kids ran off with a creature from outer space and enough of that because now all of the stupid kids are talking about how they have to get Mac to his family. Courtney talks trash about Mac and correctly points out that he may be dangerous but everyone says shut up, Meg. Anyway, another stupid pop song starts and they drive to the desert to reunite Mac with his family. How much longer with this garbage? Another half hour? Aw, man.
Meanwhile, Courtney’s really looking forward to her next shift at McDonald’s just to get away from this nonsense.
A montage ensues where Courtney and Michael are flirting and Debbie and Eric feed Mac Coca-Cola and Skittles (spoiler alert: HE LOVES THEM!), and I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to alter the laws that govern the universe so time will move forward more quickly. By the end of the montage Michael and Courtney are holding hands in what has to be the most condensed romantic subplot I’ve ever seen.
They finally stop the car in a field of wind turbines and a helicopter shot that actually looks halfway decent, so good job, movie, for being aesthetically pleasing for four seconds. Mac does his stupid whistle thing to contact his family in a scene that goes on for far too long and points in the direction of where his ugly family is dying. They pull up to a mine shaft where Mac’s crummy kin are hiding and off goes Michael and Mac to find them. There’s not enough beer in the world to make this interesting.
After yet another interminably long scene, Michael and Mac come across Mac’s apparently dead family in one of the more grim scenes I’ve ever seen in a family film. Literally, it’s Mac’s family laying naked and unconscious on the ground looking like a Holocaust victim in a dark mine shaft. You know a movie’s bad when it’s compared to the Holocaust more than once in its review. But no worries: feeding them Coca-Cola brings them back to life! I’m just going to come right out and say it: I don’t think this movie is very good.
Yet when I administer Coca-Cola into the IVs of the dying, I’m brought up on criminal charges…
Mac’s unbelievably unappealing family come back to life thanks to syrupy sugar water and they have a little meet-and-greet while Debbie says the incredibly stupid line “I’m Debbie. I live next door” like that would mean anything to these creatures who have no idea who she, or any of these other people, are. And although they gave Mac a shirt, now there are three naked, withered aliens to contend with, so it’s a net loss all around. So the gang take Mac and his family back home, and seeing these unbelievably ugly creatures sitting in the back of a van is a repellent image that may have been burned into my brain forever.
Hello, new nightmare!
Based on the scene in the car, Mac’s family are comprised of complete assholes since they keep fucking everything up the entire trip. Back in town, they stop at a gas station to buy some Coca-Cola and the aliens are totally visible through the window. A woman pulls up and is totally cool with these aliens until the dad alien smashes the window and stretches his arm out and grabs her soda. But don’t worry, these aliens continue to show that they’re monsters by walking into a grocery store naked, smashing up displays, and causing an abnormal disturbance. The grocery manager understandably freaks out and calls security, and while the kids keep telling everyone in the store these monsters aren’t going to hurt anybody, the dad alien pulls the security guard’s gun out of his hand and begins waving it around. Suddenly more security races in with their guns drawn and while Michael keeps saying these aliens aren’t going to hurt anyone, I beg to differ. This is complete madness.
These scenes courtesy of special guest director David Cronenberg.
The ugly alien family are now being negotiated with through a policeman’s megaphone as they walk across the parking lot with a bunch of stolen groceries and a loaded gun and it seems like these aliens really are a bunch of assholes. And although the kids keep stating that Mac and his family aren’t going to hurt anyone, at the first sound of gunfire the dad alien hauls off and fires the gun right at the police. This sets off a round of gunfire aimed at the family which ends with the gas pumps being shot and a gigantic explosion that destroys the grocery store along with the alien family. I spoke too soon earlier: this is complete madness. Oh, and Eric was blown up and his lifeless body in the wheelchair is shown in silhouette. Somehow this movie gets more and more insane.
Just your average kid’s movie that involves an explosion and the violent death of its handicapped protagonist.
We’re only 10 minutes away from the end and now I want the movie to keep going if it’s going to continue down this direction. A police officer declares Eric dead (kid’s movie, everybody!) and a helicopter lands while everybody on-screen cries their eyes out.
The government goon choppers in with mom and now she gets to find out her son is dead! This is really horrifying and I can’t believe I saw this movie in the theaters when I was six. Eric’s lifeless body is cried over by his mother, brother, and friend while explosions and a fire rage in the background. But through the fire, the aliens walk out unscathed in a far more horrifying a scene than most rated-R horror movies I’ve seen. They saunter up in their deformed naked bodies and the dad alien kneels down and resurrect Eric from death itself. What are these aliens’ powers? They are seemingly living gods. Oh, and this is framed as a raging, out of control blaze burns in the background and gentle, heavenly music plays on the soundtrack, producing one of the stronger moments of cognitive dissonance I’ve experienced in a while.
After Eric comes back from the dead, we see the government goons racing up and through a building and a packed courtroom to witness–and this is 100% serious–the alien family obtaining United States citizenship. They are read the actual oath they use to swear in immigrants, which is powerfully weird, as is actually seeing these aliens dressed in people clothes, including a dress for the mother and a blue suit for the father. They still have their gooney mouths eternally propped open and their hands raised for the oath. It’s thoroughly bizarre.
Pictured: the strongest case for immigration reform in America.
Eric is in a suit and he goes up to shake Mac’s hand, but since Mac is a poorly articulated puppet nothing much happens. Debbie kisses the alien father on the lips and the mother alien is…crying? And then the entire alien family drives off with the father driving a pink convertible, and Mac blows a bubble that Eric pops with his finger. A big cartoon bubble then comes up from the car that says “We’ll Be Back!” as the car merges on the freeway, which is a lie, and THAT’S MAC AND ME, FOLKS! One of the worst films ever made!
Wow. That was rough going. Somehow the film is even more terrible than any article written about it, any podcast that covered it, and any clips on YouTube could reflect. This tedious garbage goes on seemingly forever, with a pace that’s glacial and characters that are both unappealing and unconvincing, alien or otherwise.
Maybe the worst part of this movie, which is really just an extended collection of bad parts, is the design of the aliens. Not just unappealing but physically repulsive, they walk with their pelvises stuck way out and their shoulders slumped, with necks supporting bulbous bald heads, mouths puckered in an eternal O, and skin with the texture of a pock-scarred moon. Besides their features, they are devoid of personalities, instead only able to communicate through irritating whistles. When they are given some screen time and interaction with people, they are proven to be disruptive at best and downright dangerous at worst. The dad alien fires a gun, causes an explosion, and gets the main character killed all within two minutes! It’s shocking that an adult–any adult–would put together this film and think, “You know what? Kids are gonna love this.”
Is there anything good in this movie? The film is weirdly authentically 80’s, down to the birthday party being held at a McDonald’s. My twin sister and I had a birthday party one year at McDonald’s in the 1980’s, and you know what? It fucking ruled. Seeing Totally 80’s fashions, cars, and the general aesthetic was actually spot-on for the time period.
But outside of that, no, there’s nothing to recommend in this movie. Some people have a nostalgic soft spot for this film, since they saw it when they were kids and it left an indelible impression on them. But speaking as a former kid that saw this movie during its original run, I sure don’t see its charm. Maybe watching it with a group of people to make fun of it could be fun, but since I watched it alone for this recap the only humor derived from it came at the cost of having to sit alone in a room watching this garbage while writing about it in real time. As mentioned a few times throughout this recap, I had to stop and take a few breaks from watching this simply because it was interminable to sit through. The pacing is awful, the characters are paper-thin, the special effects–particularly when any of the aliens stretch themselves out–are repellant, and I find myself siding with the government goons in their want to contain these creatures. Why? Because they proved to be dangerous. But I guess bringing a little boy back to life gets you a fast-track to immigration in this country….and a pink Cadillac.
“Bizarre” is probably the best word to describe this film as a whole. Every wrong decision is made in every scene and it seemed like the people involved in making this film found themselves stuck with a bad script and terrible creature designs and just gritted their teeth and worked with what they had. Unfortunately, instead of having lemons to make lemonade, they had shit to make shit sandwiches, of which everyone–audience included–had to take a bite. Mac and Me: it’s such a pile of garbage that it’s–dare I say it?–awesome in its own unfathomable way.