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Film / Mac and Me

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"E.T., call lawyer."
Richard Harrington, The Washington Post review

Mac and Me is a 1988 film by Stewart Raffill that is best known for bearing a strong resemblance to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Shortly after being picked up by an unmanned space probe and taken to Earth, a family of humanoid space aliens escapes from a research lab. They get split up, with the youngest entering a van belonging to the Cruise family: single mom Janet (Christine Ebersole), 16-year-old Michael (Jonathan Ward), and 11-year-old and wheelchair-bound Eric (Jade Calegory), who are moving from Illinois to California. Of course, it's the youngest kid who discovers the alien first—Hilarity Ensues as the creature's attempts to reunite with his family cause Eric's family to think he's going insane.

This is to E.T. what Hobgoblins is to Gremlins. Interestingly, Mac and Me was Jennifer Aniston's screen debut—maybe.note 

A scene in which Eric rolls off a cliff became a Running Gag on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and later Conan: Whenever Paul Rudd is a guest, Rudd will play that clip instead of one from whatever film he's promoting at the time. Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled this one at the top of Season 12 — coincidentally, both show and subject turned 30 years old that year. For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode recap, go here.

"Hey, look at all the tropes. This looks pretty nice!"

  • Artistic License Gun Safety: The cops in the movie have terrible trigger discipline, including one who keeps his finger on the trigger of a loaded service revolver at all times. Unsurprisingly, this lack of safety gets Eric shot when the cop trips.
  • Artistic License Physics: A planetary probe like the one shown in the movie is pretty much impossible given our current level of technology. They clearly based it off the lunar landers, but taking off again from the moon was only possible because of its low gravity. The Mac's planet clearly has a much higher gravity (as proved by the fact that it has an atmosphere, and apparently an Earth-like atmosphere considering the aliens can breathe here). While we have sent landers and rovers to celestial bodies with established atmospheres such as Venus and Mars, plus Saturn's moon, Titan, these probes went on a one-way trip. After arriving, the probes analysed their findings on-site and sent the data back to Earth using a high-gain antenna. There is a probe sample-return mission scheduled for the future, but that probe will also not take off; instead, it will shoot a capsule containing the sample into orbit, where it will then be collected by another probe that will carry out the return trip. That mission also isn't scheduled until 2026. Now, as for the fact that the Macs' planet is apparently not in our star system...
  • Award-Bait Song:
  • Batman in My Basement
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Let's start with the way the aliens' bodies can twist like Stretch Armstrong without harming the creatures themselves, to the point they can be sucked through vacuum hoses... with the same quality allowing Mac to get flattened and squashed out of proportion against a car windshield, but seemingly not get the least bit hurt. Then there's their dependence on the unique chemical mixture found only in Coca-Cola for survival.
  • Bowdlerize: Phelous did an entire episode on the uncut Japanese ending of the film. Aside from the shot of Eric being killed by a stray bullet being cut, a horrendously done silhouette of Eric is inserted in front of the exploding building to suggest that the impact of the explosion is what killed him. A close-up of Eric is cut that shows blood on the hands of the medic trying to revive him. All lines that use the word "dead" were dubbed over, though if you listen closely, Michael's line "He's gone?" is overlaid (not dubbed) over the line he originally said, "He's dead?" Finally, a shot of one of Mac's parents dislodging a bullet from Eric's chest is cut during the revival scene.
  • Character as Himself: Ronald McDonald is credited as this.note  He wound up winning the "Worst New Star" Razzie for 1988!
  • Disappeared Dad: Eric's dad is nowhere to be seen. We're not told why.
  • Disney Death: Both the aliens and Eric; the attempted tearjerking before revival is milked for all it's worth too.
  • Dull Surprise:
    • Arguably many instances of this; the human characters don't react with nearly as much surprise and horror as most probably would at the aliens' antics or the dangers they inadvertently cause.
    • The faces of the aliens are permanently locked in this expression.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: The alien family, until they become American citizens at the end.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: While not present in the US version and therefore left ambiguous, in the Japanese version of the film, Eric is explicitly killed by a gunshot to the chest.[1]
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Yet another item to add to the list of egregious product placement, Mac's dad can actually be seen flipping off the woman in the other car for a split second during the scene where he steals her can of Sprite, just after doing so.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The alien child is referred to as "Mac" by Eric, who explains it as being an acronym for Mysterious Alien Creature. Of course, it also serves as Product Placement for McDonald's and their most popular sandwich the Big Mac.
  • Handicapped Badass: Eric, for a given very adolescent definition of "badass" Chuck Norris he ain't, but you gotta admit the wheelchair stunts are pretty impressive.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: A police officer trips over his car while chasing the aliens and accidentally fires his gun. In the Japanese cut, he explicitly shoots Eric as a result.
  • Love at First Sight: Michael and Courtney.
  • Made of Explodium: A small supermarket goes up like it was firebombed during a gunfight between police and the aliens.
  • Mars Wants Chocolate: The aliens need Coca-Cola to survive.
  • The Mockbuster: One of the most infamous examples of this, as it slavishly copies E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial down to a fine point. With all of the Product Placement, it at least had a good budget for a Mockbuster.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Eric and then his mom describe a lot of cars on the road as being "Pretty niiice!". Keep in mind they claim that they haven't seen that many cars on the road and they're from Chicago.
  • Plot Hole: Why would Eric think sucking MAC into a vacuum cleaner would work unless he saw what happened at the beginning of the film? This is called out in the MST3K episode, saying that is in fact how he knew.
  • Police Are Useless: The police and government authorities, for all their efforts to recapture these aliens, often let them slip past them way too easily; one security guard in the supermarket practically lets one of the aliens simply take his gun out of his hand.
    • Especially egregious is what happens right after when the police are called in to confront the aliens; when Eric charges forward to protect his friends, the pursuing officer flips over the corner of his cruiser when he has plenty of room to spare... And that's not even getting into the police actually causing an entire store to explode violently. Even worse in the Japanese VHS when the flipping officer accidentally shoots Eric as he falls.
  • Product Placement: Abundant, as some of the placement serves minor plot points. The products in question are:
    • Coca-Cola — This turns out to be the Earth analogue to the aliens' primary nourishment on their home planet and thus vital to their survival! Apparently, that applies to Coke-brand Sprite, too.
    • McDonald's — A character (Courtney) works there, and the kids go to a huge birthday party there, hence Ronald's cameo. The trailer actually played up the cameo. While Eric names the alien "Mac" based on his being a Mysterious Alien Creature, bear in mind that the restaurant's most famous sandwich, the Big Mac, is name-dropped in the film. The aliens even come from the planet of "Quartus Poundus", which might refer to another McDonald's sandwich—the Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
    • Powerwheels — Mac steals a Powerwheels car, and ends up getting chased by dogs while riding it.
    • Sears — The mom gets a job here, and the government agents chase Eric and Mac through it.
    • Skittles — The aliens nosh on these too, much as E.T. did with Reese's Pieces.
    • Valvoline — The logo for this motor oil producer mirrors the 'V' sign the aliens make with their hands, as well as provides a clue as to where the rest of MAC's family is hiding.
    • Wickes Lumber — Mac desires to go therenote , and it's also the location of a comic relief scene with the alien family and the final confrontation with the government. All the furniture in their house is made with Wickes Lumber, as well.
  • Sequel Hook: "We'll be back!" Although other than the words, the story is completely wrapped up.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The heartwarming ballad "Take Me, I'll Follow You", sung by Bobby Caldwell, appears two times in the movie. The second time is in the credits after Jara Lane's "You're Not A Stranger Anymore". The first time? During a scene in which Mac is stuck on top of a tree with dogs barking at him, while Eric and his mom are jogging after she and him have been clashing over "his" behavior.
  • Spoof Aesop : Practice safe trigger discipline, kids! Or there will be consequences!
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: An odd case where the denial is actually true; Eric is oddly quick to insist the havoc Mac wrecked on the house wasn't him, despite no one accusing him of anything.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • Nobody seems especially puzzled by the stuffed bear Eric insists on bringing to the party at McDonald's; even after Mac stretches his arm out reaching for a cola, it's quickly glossed over.
    • Somehow Eric and his mother don't seem curious at the dogs barking madly at a nearby tree right after Mac has crashed a Power Wheels toy in the same place.
    • While the kids and aliens are on the run from the authorities, another young driver doesn't really react to the aliens looking out of the van at her. They only start causing panic when the biggest alien steals that driver's soda by reaching through the window.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: When Courtney makes the very good point that the government might actually have a good reason to catch MAC, like for instance him having a disease, Eric's only rebuttal is "He doesn't have any diseases." How can he know that for sure?