I like to consider myself a man with good taste in movies. I love the first two Godfather films, I stayed awake for most of Schindler’s List, and Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie when I want to impress people (it’s Tommy Boy if I’m being honest). However, when given a choice between an Oscar-winning biopic or something in the clearance bin of a gas station, I always go with the latter. I’m like someone in a bad relationship- I know the movie isn’t good for me, I know the relationship isn’t going anywhere constructive, but I have such a soft-spot for it. Plus, you don’t know what it’s like when no one else is around! It can be really sweet!
Mac and Me might be the most cynical cash grab of a movie I’ve ever watched, and I loved it. The basic summary is a family of aliens comes to Earth, the baby (Mac) gets separated and spends the rest of the movie with a mother and her two sons, trying to find his family. Also, they whistle instead of talking. Don’t worry, it doesn’t get annoying until about minute five so you’re good.
If you even glanced at the above poster you probably won’t be surprised to know that this movie was made to get some of that sweet sweet E.T. money Spielberg was rubbing in everyone’s face. Trying to capitalize on the success of another movie is nothing new, but what I think makes Mac a special case study is just how bad they missed the mark. All during the movie I kept making notes of the moments that were taken directly from E.T. and how this movie completely missed what made those moments great in the first place. Let’s run through the elements Mac and Me “borrows”:
The flying bike scene
Even people who haven’t seen E.T. can recognize the flying bike scene. It easily became the iconic moment from the movie, one of triumph and magic and wish fulfillment for anyone who has ever wanted to fly.
Here’s how Mac and Me reinterprets it:
That’s the movie’s wheelchair-bound protagonist flying off a cliff. Watch it again and let it sink in.
It’s as if they watched the flying bike scene and thought “Two wheels are ok, I guess, but you know what’ll really sell tickets? Four wheels!”
A perfect example of quality over quantity.
The Reese’s Pieces
While I wasn’t there due to not-being-born, I’ve heard about how crazy people went for Reese’s Pieces after watching an alien eat them and say their name in a funny voice. People are idiots.
There is no movie magic to this moment. It’s product placement, pure and simple. It is, however, done with a little subtlety and finesse. It’s underplayed and only appears in the movie when the story calls for it e.g. as a trail for E.T.
Mac and his family need good ol’ refreshing Coca-cola to survive.
It’s very loosely explained as being similar to a liquid they drink on their home planet, which makes sense if they’re from the World of Coke in Atlanta.
The Earthlings discover this because they more or less freebase Coke throughout the entire movie, always making sure the label is clearly visible and facing the camera.
When not hooked up to a Coke IV, Mac enjoys eating Skittles. Imagine how they came up with that one.
Also, you may be wondering where the name “Mac” comes from in the first place. The aliens don’t have a whistle that translates to Mac, so why does the family call him that? To answer that, I give you the best scene in the entire movie:
In case you didn’t notice, they’re at McDonalds.
The cute alien
E.T. isn’t cute in the traditional sense, but he was nonhuman enough to where it wasn’t upsetting. He had a huge head, waddled back and forth and had hot dog fingers. The creators of Mac and Me decided that was a good start, but what people really want to see is horrific aliens that are this close to being human burn victims.
They walk upright, their skin is peachish, they have all the right number of arms and legs and ears, and it makes them TERRIFYING. The more human they looked, the more off-putting they became.
The worst by far is the dad. His eyes are always half-closed, he sways when he walks while somehow also managing to thrust his pelvis forward and just generally looks like a surly drunk.
The cherry on top, of course, is their perpetual state of nudity. You’d think if they were going to make anthropomorphic aliens they would have at least given them clothes. Seems logical, right?
Who should see this? People who thought E.T. was good, but didn’t quite hit the mark for traumatizing children.
There’s so much more to be said about this movie but it really should be experienced firsthand. It’s on Netflix Instant or you can probably get a free copy with a Domino’s promotional pizza somewhere.