Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, September 16, 2016

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Mac and Me (1988)

Some of the films in my collection I have no justification for owning. They are films that are bad, obviously bad. They are films with no redeeming value. Some consider “Mac and Me” to be so bad, that it actually becomes good again. The film has survived as an internet in-joke and a running gag between Paul Rudd and Conan O’Brien. While some people find the film’s shittiness endearing, I, for one, do not. And yet for some reason, “Mac and Me” continues to reside in my DVD collection. So why exactly do I own something I so clearly do not like?

On some unidentified foreign planet, a family of aliens go about their business, sucking flavored sugar water from the ground. That is until an Earth probe lands in their general area. The creatures are sucked into the craft and taken back to our world, circa 1988. After being uncovered by NASA, the youngest alien escapes. He soon shacks up with Eric, a boy in a wheelchair. The alien observes Eric from afar before becoming his friends. The boy and his friends dubbed the critter Mac and endeavor to reunite him with his family before time runs out.

“Mac and Me” was obviously intended as an underachieving kiddie flick, something parents could distract their offspring with for a while. In this regard, it seems like that “Mac and Me” would be a source of unintentional nightmare fuel. Mac and his family are visually unappealing. Their skin is fleshy and bumpy. Their heads are too large, limbs too gangly. They have bloated bellies, emaciated bodies, and puffy cheeks. Mac looking horrifying isn’t enough. He often does very creepy things. His arms stretch in a disturbing manner. After getting a shock from an electric fence, Mac’s body contorts in a grotesque fashion. Using his magical abilities, he often makes people, objects, and himself float. The film crudely pulls this off with strings and wire. The effect is more off-putting then charming. Much of “Mac and Me” is like that.

Yet this is not what “Mac and Me” is most notorious for. Instead, the film’s perceived comedic value lies in its blatant product placement. Not a single frame of “Mac and Me” passes without a positive endorsement of several products. Coca Cola is the elixir that Mac and his family subsist on. After the alien’s family are found in a cave, near death, they are revived with generous doses of the carbonated beverage. You can bet your ass that the cans' logos are always facing the camera. The young protagonist and his alien friend enjoy Skittles in several scenes. “The Snorks” is seemingly always on the television. Visibly branded PowerWheels feature in several moments.

Most infamously, mid-way through the film Mac and Eric visit a birthday party at McDonald’s. Ronald McDonald is present, several shots linger on him, and is even gets an “As Himself” credit at the end. Mac ostensibly stands for “Mysterious Alien Creature” but I also suspect he was named after the Big Mac. For some inexplicable reason, a dance contest is happening at the McDonald’s. Ronald, a team of football players, and several smiling McDonald’s employees join a troupe of kids in a spontaneous dance number. The only moment in the film that comes close to unintentional hilarity is when Mac, while dressed as a giant teddy bear, joins the dance. It’s an absolutely ridiculous sequence, a grotesque example of corporate synergy.

If it wasn’t immediately apparent, “Mac and Me” is a blatant rip-off of “E.T.” Yes, an alien life form comes to Earth and befriends a young boy. Together, they seek to reunite the creature with his own kind while avoiding government agents. The scenes blatantly derivative of “E.T.” are the most tedious. Mac floats around Eric’s house, attempting to make contact with the boy. The alien moves the furniture around, gets chased by dogs, and steals newspapers. Unable to afford a flying bicycle, the film instead features a wheelchair falling in slow motion. This protracted first act takes much too long, extending the film’s meager story to a torturous 99 minutes.

The film continues after its obvious ending point, when Mac and his family are reunited. Instead of teasing the alien’s death, the boy almost dies. When the aliens get into a shoot-out with some trigger happy cops, Eric is caught in the crossfire. Naturally, the kid is brought back to life. Yet actually shooting a child is another example of how deeply miscalculated “Mac and Me” is. Even this isn’t the film’s ending. Mac and his family become the first alien citizens of America, a thankfully undelivered sequel is threatened, and a pop song even more saccharine then the alien’s favorite soda plays.

Why Do I Own This?: My ownership of “Mac and Me” is indefensible. Years ago, when I was going through my bad movies phase, I grabbed a used copy of the flick from our local F.Y.E. The night I watched the film followed a rough day at school, where I was halfway to a cold. I watched about sixty seconds of “Mac and Me” and drifted to sleep. I woke just in time for the film’s final image, of Mac and pals driving a pink Cadillac down the high way. This is a fair reaction, as “Mac and Me” is mostly very boring. Because of this stupid movie, I actually missed a phone call from a girl I liked at the time. None of these are good reasons for owning such a pathetic, uninteresting excuse for a movie. Into the sell pile it goes. [2/10]

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