"Mac and Me" (1988) Review
It's not as bad as you've heard, if you've heard of it at all.
Mac and Me is a strange beast of a film. It's infamy precedes it in most cult film circles as one of the worst movies ever made. Before I say what I'm about to say, I want to establish some ethos here. I grew up watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. I've seen the Coleman Francis trilogy. I have seen all sorts of garbage movies over the years to the point that there's only one truly horrible movie I've never been able to finish, a film called Things from 1989.
That's a long way of saying that Mac and Me barely registers as one of the worst movies ever made. In fact, it's budget and occasional (emphasis on occasional) talent behind the scenes prevent it from being one of the worst things I've ever seen by default. I actually had a pretty decent time sitting through it, and that's not always the case with a movie this infamous.
Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a bad movie, a total rip-off, and maybe one of the grossest cross-promotional films ever made, but worst movie ever? Not even close. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to have a blast writing about this mutant of a movie that literally has almost no identity of its own and had its soul replaced by a McDonalds Happy Meal.
First off, when people call Mac and Me an "E.T. ripoff," they're not kidding around. The plot is almost identical with two variations: Instead of one alien, there's a whole family of them, and our main character, Eric Cruise (Jade Calegory), is in a wheelchair. Before I really dive into this film's weirdness, I do want to give the movie legitimate credit for casting a child who had spina bifida to play the part, meaning the child actor used a wheelchair in real life. That's a cool thing to do, and it's the only real positive point in the movie's favor that doesn't come with a huge catch.
Like, the music in this film is technically good? The composer was Alan Silvestri, a man who composed music for the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which came out the exact same year as Mac and Me), and even worked on The Avengers six years ago. So the music is competent, but you can tell that Silvestri was forced to make a sound-alike score to John Williams' work on E.T..
Similarly, the creature effects for the aliens are technically well-realized at times. The head of the effects team was Martin Becker, the man who headed up the make-up for the Friday the 13th franchise from Part III all the way to Jason Takes Manhattan. So the creatures move well (sometimes) and they're well constructed, but the design work is... Horrible. If you've never seen what the aliens of Mac and Me look like, they have massive eyes and mouths the size of a quarter. They're cartoonish proportions combined with the quality of the sculpting puts them in a weird uncanny valley from which they can never possibly escape.
Oh! And the cinematography is pretty good too! The cinematographer was Nick McLean, the man who had shot The Goonies for Richard Donner only three years before Mac and Me. There's some really pretty shots and a well coordinated dance number.
But the dance number is also the best/worst part of the entire movie, perhaps the most over the top brand promotion ever put into a film from the 1980s (and considering that decade's output, that's saying a lot). The middle of the film stops dead for a massive dance number in the middle of a McDonalds, and it's truly bonkers to behold. If you cut a few plot relevant shots out of the scene and recut it ever so slightly, you could literally turn the scene into a commercial for McDonalds. And just as icing on the cake, a Ronald McDonald is walking around the building doing magic tricks.
Also, the credits at the end list "Ronald McDonald as Himself," just to really drive home what kind of movie you're dealing with here.
There's way more wrong with the movie, but to list each individual flaw would take far too long. More than that, it'd ruin the fun, because while this isn't close to the worst movie ever made, it's definitely one of the best/worst movies I've seen in a long time. There are so many ridiculous moments throughout, beyond the one scene everyone has seen on Late Night with Conan O'Brien whenever Paul Rudd comes on (if you don't know what I'm talking about, just watch the movie first and look this up later).
For fans of "so bad it's good" movies, Mac and Me is essential. It's totally watchable, unlike some movies of its kind, but it's many MANY idiosyncrasies and horrifying decisions make it damn entertaining. But anyone expecting a gauntlet of movie watching patience won't find much here (whoever that person is).