MAC AND ME

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One restless evening in the summer of 1987, writer/director Stewart Raffill, eyes bloodshot and heart racing, placed a frantic phone call to friend and collaborator Steve Feke, now reportedly deceased. The conversation lasted but a few moments and recollections of the event are sketchy at best, but the pair did agree to meet later that month on a project that would, if their boyish enthusiasm was any guide, revolutionize the medium they both knew and loved. Over the long weekend to follow, during these legendary “bull” sessions, as they would later be known, Stewart and Steve asked a single, probing question: how to take the warmth and good-feeling of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, strip away any real sentiment, add an ambiguously gay crippled youngster for the cheap seats, and, most importantly, sell a few hundred thousand cheeseburgers in the process. All without a special effects budget, real actors, or much more than a few hours in the editing suite.

 

Dusting off a hastily photocopied version of Melissa Mathison’s now-sanctified script, pausing only to change a character name or two, as well as substituting Skittles for Reese’s Pieces, the two go-getters had at last crafted a tangible realization of their dream, the alien comedy Mac and Me. As a movie, it’s by and large an inexplicable mish-mash of slapstick, cornball, odd soundtrack choices, and no fewer than sixteen product shots of Coca-Cola, but it’s made whole — unforgettably appalling, in fact — by a series of surreal scenes that betray the presence of any number of hallucinogens during the act of creation. The set of Easy Rider could not have been more acid-soaked. That it remains unsung in the annals of crimes against the cinema, perhaps even the state, is likely the greatest mystery of all time.

The movie opens on what appears to be one of Saturn’s moons, though in a direct challenge to every scientific principle, humanoid creatures stagger around the surface without struggling to breathe. And who knew the outer reaches of the solar system were so balmy! Its resemblance to Southern California is no coincidence, as the family of aliens will soon be sucked up in a vacuum attached to an American probe, and returned to the suspiciously rented-warehouse-by-the-hour-looking NASA headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. The blips and bleeps of random computers add a dash of realism, but all is lost when the confused Asian extra, blown away by his one big chance, flubs the requisite techno-babble with all the gusto of a man swiftly sent back to his job at the Pick N’ Save. After some screaming and general panic, the aliens escape into the unknown. Soon, however, the youngest of the creatures, a baby resembling a claymation Billy Wilder on a good day, will be electrocuted by a security fence, shot through the air, and, at last, into the loving arms of a family recently arrived from Chicago. And so begins our story.

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The baby, soon christened “MAC” by Eric, the fey thespian in the wheelchair, ostensibly because it is “My Alien Creature” and not because it is the first of twenty forced connections to the McDonald’s brand, sneaks in the backseat of the family’s van during a massive traffic jam. This ode to Godard’s Weekend, among other things, gives us a quick glimpse of that ginger Sam kid from Diff’rent Strokes, which makes us wonder why, at the peak of his fame, he couldn’t muster but a two-second cameo in a third-rate rip-off of a film that sucked ass to begin with. It is here, too, that a can of Coke makes its first appearance, a beverage that appeals greatly to MAC. He steals the can, steals Eric’s heart, and manages to cause all kinds of wacky mischief, including ruining the boy’s new home. These scenes are standard fare, asking us to accept that mom would rather believe her paralyzed son could turn the living room into a forest than something is amiss. Mom also happens to work at Sears (which is both mentioned by name, and visited at least twice), if only to show that the department store giant is stocked to the brim with a McKids clothing line.

I don’t know why the fuck I’m continuing to talk about this, but the following exchange had me at hello:

Mom: “Here’s your TOWW.”

Eric: “My what?”

Mom: “Tuna on whole wheat.”

From then on, I understood everything, and in the blink of an eye, Eric was careening out of control on his wheelchair through a dense thicket, only to fly over a 100-foot cliff into the water below. No explanation is necessary, but know that MAC saves the boy from drowning, which still isn’t enough for mom to believe in the little bugger. The little neighbor girl comes to visit Eric and thankfully, she’s a believer. She’s soon taken away by her hot, vaguely Mexican sister, who immediately attracts the attention of Eric’s horny brother. The babe, Courtney, is oddly wearing her McDonald’s uniform at the time, leading to this second, equally hilarious exchange:

Michael: “You know what I feel like?”

Eric: “A Big Mac?”

Michael: “The man’s psychic!”

And off they go, but not before MAC reads the paper, cleans the house, and uses telepathy to communicate with his dying father in the desert.

Out of nowhere, we are at a birthday party. Only it’s no ordinary birthday party. Taking place at a McDonald’s (if only the one in San Ysidro, circa 1985), it features break dancing black people in the parking lot, a creeptastic Ronald performing magic tricks, and MAC dressed in a teddy bear’s skin, though his stubby legs have been mysteriously transformed into spindly pins befitting a young adult. Then, without warning, a dance contest breaks out, and the kids come together in a performance that would have Broadway audiences bellowing for more. Quick cuts around the restaurant show fully-dressed football players (sans helmets) snappin’ and poppin’ to a boom box, crispy-haired Latinas performing cartwheels, and yes, even our dear MAC, shucking and jiving on the counter. NASA officials burst in to take him away, but he quickly escapes by doing mid-air somersaults until he’s pushed out the door, and into Eric’s waiting chair. The chase to follow will take us down a busy LA expressway, through Sears, into parking lots, and eventually down another busy street, where Michael and the fast food hottie will drive alongside the boy and scoop him up, wheelchair and all, going at least 90mph.

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The van drives on to the desert, where it discovers MAC’s dying family in an abandoned mine shaft. Thankfully, the entire lot is rescued by Coca-Cola, only dad is so greedy for more he storms out of the cave. The aliens are packed into the van, madness ensues, and as they stop for gas, the dippy father breaks loose and walks into a grocery store. Naturally, papa alien knocks over a Coke display, picks up and drops a watermelon, and faces down a security guard with oblivious bravery. Within seconds, the entire LAPD shows up to arrest the aliens, much to the dismay of Michael and Eric, who insist they are harmless. Oh really? Why, then, does the alien father have a box of groceries tucked under his arm as he leaves the store? Fucker obviously stole that shit, considering he has no money (or pants). He also has that guard’s gun, which accidentally goes off, leading to a Wild West shootout that blows up the entire shopping mall, as well as leaving Eric dead in his chair. There are tears, but through the flames, a hero emerges: it is dear old dad, leading his brood in a healing ritual that can only bring back memories of Jesus and Lazarus. So what if the eight-foot alien is about the creepiest motherfucker to ever fall from the sky; he heals the sick, raises the dead, and earns the respect of every man, woman, and child.

It is the final scene, however, that truly astonishes. Having saved the boy — you know, the one he got killed to begin with because he was waving that fucking gun around — the alien father, along with MAC and the rest of the family, are sworn in as United States citizens. Dad’s in a suit, mom in some Bess Truman number, and the kids, well, I already mentioned the McKids attire. To make matters worse, dad drives away from the hearing — yes, I said drives — in a pink Cadillac. Throughout this mind-fuck of a conclusion, I could only wonder what everyone else in the room was thinking at that very moment. Citizens? Wouldn’t a key to the city have sufficed? Maybe a picnic in their honor? And who the fuck issued a driver’s license to this thing? And is this whole movie a commentary on lax immigration policies? Thank god we had the mother and son jogging scene with a Peter Cetera overdub to being it all back home. We’ll end with the lyrics, fittingly, I think:

“Tired of feeling all by myself; being so different from everyone else

Somehow you knew I needed your help; be my friend forever

I never found my star in the night; feeling my dream was far from my sight

You came along and I saw the light; We’ll be friends forever.”

Thanks to DVD, we will indeed.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52