As is usually the case when a film becomes incredibly
popular, pale imitations soon follow.
And while there are numerous titles one could run off the top of their
head to prove such a point, in my eyes, one reigns supreme.
In 1982, Steven Spielberg achieved universal acclaim with E.T.,
the seminal film for many a childhood. The
story of a little boy and his lost intergalactic friend struck an emotional chord
with moviegoers worldwide, as well as proving to producers that there was a
market for these types of films. A
number of carbon copies were quickly produced, trying to join in on Spielberg’s
cash parade. One of them was a film
called Mac and Me.
Mac and Me tells the story of Eric, a shy boy confined to
a wheelchair, who meets a mysterious alien creature (MAC), presumably the same
age as him, after he escapes from the evil clutches of NASA. Eventually, the two become inseparable and
band together to save Mac’s parents from evil scientists. Don’t worry if Mac and Me sounds
unfamiliar, because if you’ve seen E.T., you’ve definitely seen this. It’s essentially the same story, only containing
a grittier protagonist (if you consider a boy in a wheelchair “gritty”, which I
guess the producers did) and told on a smaller budget with a keen eye for
product placement, also similar to Spielberg’s masterpiece.
After watching E.T., sales in Reese’s Pieces went through
the roof. On the other hand, Mac and Me
prominently featured McDonald’s food, while also shooting an entire scene
inside a McDonald’s restaurant (resulting in one of the most lambasted moments
in 1980’s cinema). But the thing is, the
incorporation of Reese’s Pieces was important to the development of E.T. and Elliot’s
friendship, whereas in Mac and Me it just comes off as being an example of
shallow and manipulative product placement.
Many criticized the film for being a ninety minute McDonald’s
commercial. In fact, I remember watching
Ronald McDonald himself introduce the trailer on television.
Even though the way in which the film uses product placement
leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth, Mac and Me is one of the best bad movies
ever made. I will give credit to the
filmmakers for basing a story around a boy in a wheelchair (he’s paralyzed from
the waste down); a fact that, sadly, results in some of the most
unintentionally funny moments in the film.
Immediately following the opening credits, the film’s flaws become
apparent and almost distracting. The design
of Mac and his parents is unique, even though it makes the film’s low budget
woefully apparent. It is also an unabashedly
80’s film, containing the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) of
that decade’s slang and fashion sense.
But there are some things that are just too enjoyable to
pass up. Take, for example, the scene in
which Eric falls off the edge of a cliff in his wheelchair, only to be rescued
by super-swimmer Mac. Or the moment in
which Mac, dressed as a teddy bear in McDonald’s, dances his heart out on the
counter, all the while stealing kid’s Cokes from right under their noses. Above all, however, how can anyone not enjoy
seeing Mac’s father carrying a suitcase and wearing a fedora (!) for no
particular reason? These are moments and
images that made the film entertaining, even though it had no right to be.
If anything, I regret seeing the film again, this time
through the eyes of a somewhat cynical adult point of view. Mac and Me is the type of film that should
be enjoyed by children, as they are the ones who will latch onto the film’s
depiction of friendship, whimsy and McDonald’s food without realizing its many,