Director : Stewart Raffill
Cast : Jade Calegory, Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary and Lauren Stanley
I’ve mentioned a few times during this site that I do find it odd when I watch films that I saw when I was young, mainly because they’re often not even close to being as good as I remembered. This has happened with numerous films that I’ve reviewed on this site, but I get the feeling none will come as close as this.
My parents are currently downsizing and therefore I’m currently on holiday so I can go through a lot of my old stuff to help them save space, and I found a VHS of “Mac and Me” (as well as a lot of older films, expect quite a few reviews of older films coming up), a film that I enjoyed a lot in my youth, but I haven’t watched it in what I estimate to be around 25 years. Since then I’ve regularly seen this film on many countdowns of the worst films ever made, including many saying that it’s a glorified McDonalds advert, so when I found the VHS I decided that it was time to relive this and see if it didn’t hold up anymore.
Hopefully this will prove to be as enjoyable as it was during my youth, but I very much doubt it as I’m now in my thirties and I’d like to think my tastes were better than back then.
A family of aliens are going about their everyday lives on their home planet when a NASA rock sampling machine accidentally sucks them up. When the machine returns to Earth the family is able to escape, but they get separated from their infant son, who finds his way into the back of a family car.
Eric (Calegory) is the youngest of the family and they’re moving from Chicago to California to make it easier for his spina bifida, but as soon as they arrive at their new home the alien starts causing trouble. The first morning sees Eric accidentally going down a hill in his wheelchair and crashing into the lake at the bottom of the cliff. He is rescued by the alien, although his family refuses to believe that this happened and gets him professional help as his mother thinks it might have been a suicide attempt.
Eventually he and neighbour Debbie (Stanley) catch the alien, which he dubs MAC (mysterious alien creature), and this proves it to Michael (Ward), but as more people find out about MAC’s existence, the more his life is in danger.
Is it as bad as people have said it is, or is it actually reasonable?
Well I’ll say one thing, it definitely wasn’t as good as I remembered it being.
Let’s start with the main point of contention that the majority have for this film, the product placements. During all of the ridicule for it I thought that the comments on product placement were exaggerated, but they really aren’t. During my viewing I noticed skittles, Gatorade, McDonalds and Coke on such a regular basis that it did start feeling like a feature length advert. I would love to know what amount of the budget was dedicated to Coke cans because they are in nearly every scene. One of the common jokes with “Fight Club” was that there was a Starbucks cup in every single scene, and I think “Mac and Me” does the exact same thing with Coke.
Having said that, it’s not as sinful as the constant references to McDonalds get in the second half of the film, including a full on dance scene in a McDonalds restaurant that just appears out of nowhere. I’ve worked in McDonalds twice during my life and can assure you that there are no dance contests, not even at kids parties. The McDonalds references aren’t even subtle, including below conversation;
Michael : ‘So, McDonalds huh?’ (Referring to Katrina’s uniform)
Debbie (Katrina’s little sister) : ‘Yeah, why don’t you stop for a Big Mac?’
And the next minute, literally the very next minute;
Michael : Know what I feel like?’
Eric : A Big Mac?
Michael : You’re a genius!
If you must insist on forcing product placement down our throats then please don’t make it so unsubtle. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can definitely see why this has caused a lot of people to criticise the film. I realise that these films have to get their money in some how, but to do it to this extent is just beyond defensible. I can’t think of a single reason to stick up for the film in this respect.
Had this not had the product placement then I think it would have certainly had more of a chance with critics and the general viewing public but I found myself unable to stop laughing at how poorly it was made in that sense. I notice product placement a lot more than I did before I started reviewing films, but at least other films try and integrate it subtlety, something which doesn’t happen here.
So ignoring the product placement, to be fair it’s not actually an awful film, it’s passable in a small way. It does contain a LOT of cliches, but this was released in the eighties so it would be unfair to criticise it for cliches by the standards of today given that a lot of them did actually start in the eighties, and wouldn’t have been regarded as cliches at the time of release.
The acting is fine (considering what they had to work with) and the characters are likeable, if a little one dimensional, but it doesn’t surprise me that not a single member of the principle cast had a lasting career in Hollywood.
To put this in some sort of context, the film currently has a rating of 3.4/10 on IMDB. Had it not been for the product placement then I’d say it was a solid 5/10, albeit slightly generously.
I’m really struggling to come up with a true positive from the film, other than the exceptionally laudable decision to actually give a role of a kid with spina bifida to a young actor that actually had that condition himself. It would have been far too easy to give it to just anyone, so to give an opportunity to a disabled actor is commendable.
If you can get past the multiple product placements then you might enjoy this as it’s a nice enough little sci-fi film, albeit without being spectacular. I really wanted to say something nice about a film that I loved when I was a child, but unfortunately I couldn’t think of something that was noteworthy in a positive sense.
I really can’t think of anything majorly positive about “Mac and Me” and in many ways I wish I had left it in the past. If you’re going to put this on for your young children then yes, they might enjoy it, but anyone over the age of about seven or eight might start to notice the things that would stop this being a fun film.
It’s not something I would urge you to avoid, but it certainly isn’t one that I can recommend that you watch.