ZERO STARS/**** Image D Sound D
starring Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary, Lauren Stanley
screenplay by Stewart Raffill and Steve Feke
directed by Stewart Raffill
by Walter Chaw One of the most woeful and dispiriting films ever made, Stewart Raffill's Mac and Me qualifies as a hate crime. It's a feature-length commercial for McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Skittles, and Sears masquerading as a rip-off of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ("MAC" = "Mysterious Alien Creature") that, what with Alan Silvestri's awful score, indicates that it's also ripping off Back to the Future during a key scene in which our wheelchair-bound hero, Eric (Jade Calegory), grabs the fender of a passing car and hitches his way to relative safety. Chips it might earn for casting an actual disabled kid in the role are cashed in when it's revealed that Eric's wrinkled-flesh puppet alien pal can only be sustained on this island earth by a combination of Coke and Skittles. It's enough to put you off not only junk food, but movies altogether. There's a place in Hell reserved for the clowns who peddle stuff like this (Ronald McDonald makes a cameo in the picture, and an even longer one in the trailer)--the movie is so venal and grasping in its conception, so astonishingly inept in its execution, that upon death, Raffill and writing partner Steve Feke should have this piece of crap projected onto their caskets to counter the pain of their passing. I'm serious. Mac and Me lowers the conversation for everyone, to the extent that it's almost a satire of greed and corporate malfeasance. Show it in a double-bill with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room for an example of what corporations think they can get away with--and what they do.
Eric, his older brother Michael (Jonathan Ward), and their freaked-out mother Janet (Christine Ebersole) nearly get smeared in a too-scary opening car crash that does succeed in flattening the sometimes-cartoon-physics-gifted alien visitor. A prologue introduces the E.T.s sucking Coke out of the blasted moonscape of their home planet before an unmanned NASA probe sucks them up with a hose and transports them to Earth. Separated during a stupid escape, MAC goes to live with earthlings and the rest of his nuclear clan hides out cunningly in an abandoned mine shaft until such time as MAC and his adoptive family discover them and revive them with Coke and Skittles. Not kidding. In between, MAC uses his magnificent alien powers of sparking and resembling rubber vomit to redecorate Eric's house as a hunting lodge (?), get treed by dogs (?), get sucked-up in a vacuum cleaner in a friendly gesture from Eric, and communicate with his lost family the way that the The Jackson 5 communicate with one another in that "Can You Feel It?" video, i.e., through disco special effects and barely subsumed gayness.
An extended, frenetic dance sequence set at McDonald's, carried off by extras from Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, a dwarf in a teddy-bear suit, and the all-gay, over-forty football team provides a surreal ten minutes before MAC and clan are shot with a shotgun apparently loaded with plutonium. (Maybe it's the toxic reservoirs built up from a steady diet of Big Macs, Skittles, and Coke that prove inflammable.) The resulting seismic explosion kills Eric (a "doctor" (Joseph Chapman) fumbles at Eric's shirt for a while before declaring that there's nothing he can do for him), but lo, the aliens are fire-retardant in addition to retardant-retardant, and thus are able to bring Eric back from the dead--though they're not also able to restore his ability to walk. I understand that the point of the pic might be to have a disabled kid be the hero--but you toss in this plot twist of these useless shambling pieces of whistling shit being able to breathe life into the dead and these questions do arise.
Then again, why should they when by the time you get to this point, Eric's already taken a fifty-foot header off a cliff in his backyard (?), MAC and his family have proven themselves the galactic equivalent of the Special Olympics, and Raffill has demonstrated (as he will demonstrate repeatedly for the rest of his career) a stunning inability to tell any kind of coherent story in the medium of film. Because the picture ends with the space 'tards getting sworn in as citizens of the United States before driving off in a pink Cadillac, it's tempting to see it as some sort of ironic commentary on just how stupid the filmmakers think Americans are (or, more shockingly, how diluted we've become by Eugenically-challenged immigrants), but most likely it's just Raffill--who's also responsible The Ice Pirates, Mannequin: On the Move, and Tammy and the T-Rex--being Raffill, a man on the shortlist of the worst directors of all-time.
MGM unleashes Mac and Me on DVD in a no-frills, pan-and-scan presentation that, for consistency's sake, I'll decry. For honesty's sake, though, I must confess that I couldn't give less of a crap how this abortion is made more obsolete by a shoddy transfer. It's not merely a bad movie, understand--Mac and Me is an evil one, too. Take the trailer, for instance, which opens with a weird skit starring Ronald McDonald and ends with a title card declaring that a portion--a portion--of the film's "profits" will go to the Ronald McDonald House charity. The video transfer is weak, taken from a degraded source and plopped onto the platter like slop at a military kitchen, while the DD 2.0 surround audio is reedy and undernourished. A bad transfer of a horrific film with an inept trailer--all in a keepcase for the sake of aerodynamics. You must avoid this film at all costs; watching it's made me a little stupider, buying it would have also dropped me a few social classes. Originally published: May 30, 2005.
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