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Stewart Raffill
Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Tina Caspary, Lauren Stanley, Jade Calegory
Writing Credits:
Stewart Raffill, Steve Feke

When MAC (Mysterious Alien Creature) is stranded on Earth, he meets ten-year-old Eric, and they become fast friends.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$6.424 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 4/12/2005

• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Mac And Me (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 10, 2012)

Don’t look for my usual long-winded preface here. I want to plow through my synopsis for 1988’s Mac and Me so I can get to the meat of the matter more quickly.

On an unnamed arid planet, a NASA exploratory craft uses its built-in vacuum to suck up a family of aliens. When the pod returns to Earth, the critters soon get out and make a run for it. The smallest one gets separated from the others and causes an accident when he ends up in the street.

During the aftermath, the little fella hitches a ride in the van driven by single mother Janet Cruise (Christine Ebersole). The vehicle also transports her teen son Mike (Jonathan Ward) and handicapped boy Eric (Jade Calegory). They’re moving to northern California, and as the boys settle in to their new house, they soon meet their intergalactic stowaway.

Eric has a close encounter with the critter but doesn’t get a great look at it. When he chases the being, the alien escapes, and Eric fears he ran into something scary. In the meantime, the trespasser continues to spy on Eric as he mopes about his own absent clan. To that end, he whistles a whole bunch to alert them to his presence.

That’ll take time, I suppose, as his family wanders in the middle of nowhere. While he waits, the alien redecorates the house in his own bizarre way, an action that freaks out Janet. She blames Eric so he wheels away in a mopey state. He loses control of his wheelchair and falls into a lake. The alien rescues Eric but inevitably vanishes before anyone else sees him.

This means no one believes Eric so he decides he’ll capture the creature to prove it to them. Along with neighbor girl Debbie (Lauren Stanley) he sucks “MAC” - “Mysterious Alien Creature” - into a vacuum. When they release him, MAC gets away and remains elusive. He attracts the attention of the feds, though, and they want to recapture this space critter. The rest of the film follows attempts to get MAC back to his family and to avoid the authorities.

If you want to find the date that marks the nadir of filmmaking, look back to August 12, 1988. On that day, Mac and Me hit theaters. I don’t feel this way simply because Mac is such a transparent rip-off of 1982’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial. (How transparent? Look to the left for the cover art to get a strong hint.)

No, Mac didn’t achieve historical hideousness due to its thievery. (And I’ve not even mentioned obvious nods to efforts like Alien and The Man Who Fell to Earth as well as the fact that MAC’s whistling sounds a lot like R2-D2’s beeps and boops.) Plenty of movies steal from better predecessors and don’t flop quite as badly as Mac.

I nominate Mac as arguably the worst film yet made because it offers the most grotesque product placement ever. McDonald’s sponsored the flick. That inspired the movie’s title as well as many mentions of the chain. Mac also features relentless promotion for Sears, Coke and Skittles and probably some others that I became too desensitized to notice. (I’m not sure if the frequent displays of Chicago sports paraphernalia is product placement or just lazy production design.)

The ads for Mac even touted a guest appearance by Ronald McDonald as though they’d landed a turn from Marlon Brando! The DVD continues this insanity, as its case mentions a “rare cameo” from Ronald McDonald. A “rare cameo”? Yeah, it’s pretty tough to get a hold of the burger-shilling clown - he’s a recluse on the level of JD Salinger.

Maybe if Mac and Me boasted a single competent element it could’ve overcome its cinematic plagiarism and promotional inanity. However, the film flops in every way imaginable from our very first glimpse of the crude and incompetent creations used to bring the aliens to “life”. Whether costumes or puppets, the space critters never look remotely believable. Indeed they come across as laughably fake, and it doesn’t help that MAC varies in size from scene to scene. One minute he seems to be about three feet tall, while seconds later he appears to stand no higher than 10 inches!

Logic problems and silly moments abound in Mac. These begin immediately, as the spacecraft gets back to Earth awfully quickly. And why would Eric use a vacuum cleaner to capture MAC? It’s not like he’d know that’s how they came to Earth in the first place. And then why would he immediately release him? He almost kills MAC due to his aggressive method of abduction and then worries about his fate?

I found it impossible to pick a favorite moment. My most prominent memory of Mac came from Lauren Stanley’s bizarre line readings as Debbie. She doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue how to play the scenes, so she overdoes everything. In contrast, Jade Calegory comes across as so bland that outside of a mild whininess, Eric displays no personality at all.

I suppose we should give the filmmakers credit for his casting, though. It’s refreshing that they hired a handicapped kid for the part, even though I’m not sure why Eric needed to be wheelchair-bound. This fact has no practical role in the narrative. Maybe it was just a ploy to make them look all nice ‘n’ sensitive ‘n’ stuff.

I’m cynical enough as it is, but the mind-blowing crassness of Mac exacerbates those tendencies. How else can you explain my skeptical view of Calegory’s casting? That’s how terrible Mac is - it provokes me to find a scheming reason for even its positive elements.

Mac does have one saving grace: it’s so thoroughly atrocious that it’s absolutely delightful. Sure, the storyline makes little sense beyond its massive appropriations from ET. The kids’ general blind faith in the inherent goodness of MAC and family must stem from too many screenings of the Spielberg classic. Even when Daddy MAC waves around a gun, the kids still cry that he’s harmless. Otherwise, characters change their attitudes at will, and the narrative follows a vague path that goes down whatever cheesy path the movie chooses.

Really, it’s insane some of the choices the filmmakers select. In one scene, MAC drives a toy car through the neighborhood while Janet jogs with a wheeling Eric at her side. Eventually MAC crashes and lands in a tree. He then watches the family while a horrible Peter Cetera style ballad plays. I guess this is meant to symbolize MAC’s sadness at the absence of his own kin, but it comes across as nonsensical. It’s like someone said “we need a song for the soundtrack” and plopped that one in at a random spot.

The same thing happens later in the film. Though the kids flee from the feds, the movie decides to make them perky and happy. It plays a song that sounds a lot like Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” but was presumably a lot cheaper to use. They’re hiding from the authorities but they feel chipper enough to laugh it up on the way? This makes no sense. (And never mind that the passing police cars would spot them immediately - they’re driving the same van in which the feds saw them flee!)

All that and I’ve not even mentioned the bizarrely dark turn toward the end, the insanely imbecilic and improbable conclusion for MAC and family, or the strangest dance sequence ever filmed. Well, I have to leave some surprises for new viewers. Suffice it to say that Mac and Me is a mess, and an unredeemable one at that. Not a single professional or competent moment appears in this absurdly bad movie. And dammit, that’s why I love it and will delight in its stupidity for years to come.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Mac and Me appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Normally I hate pan and scan transfers, even if they’re open matte, which is probably the case for Mac. On the other hand, an altered presentation seems almost appropriate for a cinematic atrocity like this.

Taken on its own merits, the transfer displayed a mix of highs and lows. Sharpness was erratic. Most shots looked pretty concise, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Occasionally the movie turned somewhat soft and ill-defined, and without much logic. Usually I see most of the problems in wide shots, but here the softness popped up without much rhyme or reason. The lack of definition wasn’t terrible, and most of the movie looked fine, but the softness did create some distractions.

Some problems stemmed from edge enhancement. The haloes never became severe, but I saw them with moderate frequency and intensity throughout the movie. I also noticed some jagged edges and a smidgen of shimmering. As for source flaws, the film demonstrated a few speckles, mostly during effects shots like those with the NASA spacecraft at the movie’s start. Otherwise, the transfer suffered from surprisingly few defects given the flick’s age.

Mac went for a naturalistic palette that varied in quality. Most shots offered pretty good vivacity to the hues, but some were less vibrant and could seem somewhat drab. Blacks also fluctuated from reasonably deep to moderately flat, while low-light shots tended to be too thick. A few clearer exceptions occurred, but the majority of the shadows came across as slightly dense. The good parts worked well, but the concerns occurred frequently enough to knock this transfer down to a “C+”.

(By the way, my grade didn’t address the pan and scan issue. I score picture quality based on how the movie actually looks and don’t factor in framing. Obviously, if I did that, I’d give Mac a lower grade.)

Mac and Me boasted a similarly unremarkable Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack. I will admit the mix earned points due to its surprising ambition. No, it didn’t offer a terrifically vivid soundfield, but it opened up matters more than I expected. Of course, since I anticipated a monaural track, that doesn’t say much.

Nonetheless, music showed decent stereo separation, and effects spread across the front with reasonable definition. They didn’t mesh together terribly well, but the elements popped up in appropriate spots and brought some breadth to the mix. Surround usage was sporadic and only kicked in specific information like various vehicles on infrequent occasions. The mix stayed mostly focused on the front.

Audio quality was acceptable but a bit of a weak link. Some of that related to the level at which the track was mastered. To get this sucker to listenable levels, I had to crank the volume much higher than usual, and it still sounded too subdued. I didn’t want to turn the knob any farther to the right for fear a loud pop might flatten my speakers, so I usually had to deal with audio that presented less of an impact than I’d expect.

This became apparent mostly via the effects, as they tended to sound somewhat feeble. They showed decent clarity but lacked much range or impact. A little distortion crept in at times as well. Music fared a little better but still demonstrated less vivacity than anticipated. Speech was decent and that was about it. The lines always sounded intelligible and relatively concise, though some edginess came through on occasion. I gave this mix a “C+” because it presented a broader soundfield than usual for a movie from 1988, but it lacked the presence to become anything above average.

To my immense disappointment, Mac comes with almost no extras. All we get is the film’s trailer. At least it’s a great one, as it immediately spotlights the participation of Ronald McDonald. Still - no commentary? No deleted scenes? No four-hour documentary? Bah!

Fans of bad cinema rejoice! We can now watch the world’s worst movie on DVD. Yeah, the absence of the original aspect ratio disappoints, but a digital Mac and Me remains a cause for celebration if you enjoy totally incompetent filmmaking. The DVD presents average picture and sound plus a paucity of supplements.

Nonetheless, I must recommend this flick to anyone who wants to dig into a crass, contemptuous piece of commerce masquerading as a feature film. Cynic that I am, I mean that as a compliment! Mac and Me will always maintain a cherished spot in my DVD collection.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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