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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Mac and Me - Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)
Mac and Me - Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // PG // August 7, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $22.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted August 27, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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When a NASA probe lands on a distant planet, all the technicians expect it to pick up are some rocks. Instead, they get an entire family of alien creatures, whose ability to manipulate electricity results in an explosion. The four creatures -- father, mother, infant, and child -- all escape, but the child becomes separated from the rest of his family. Through a series of wacky mishaps, the child ends up hiding in the van of the Cruise family: single mother Janet (Christine Ebersole), oldest son Michael (Jonathan Ward), and youngest son Eric (Jade Calegory), who uses a wheelchair. In his efforts to get back to his family, the creature, eventually nicknamed MAC (Mysterious Alien Creature) wreaks havoc on Eric's life before setting off a wild adventure that will eventually capture the attention of not just Michael, but also their next-door neighbors Debbie (Lauren Stanley) and her older sister Courtney (Tina Caspary).

The hat trick of Mac and Me's questionable reputations precede it. First of all, the movie has carved out an oddball niche in pop culture thanks to Paul Rudd, who brings the exact same clip of Eric rolling down a hill in his wheelchair and flying off a cliff into a lake every time he appears on Conan O'Brien's late night show. The movie is also notorious as a film partially funded and created for McDonald's, which becomes obvious during a ridiculous, movie-stopping dance sequence inside a McDonald's, filled with crowds of choreographed celebration -- even the lead character of "MAC" is a blatant reference. Coca-Cola is also a blatant sponsor, with cans of Coke popping up in nearly every scene. Finally, the film is a shamelessly cynical rip-off of Spielberg's E.T., right down to the alien creature eating handfuls of colorful candy (in this case, Skittles rather than Reese's Pieces). Given this kind of cult reputation, it's unsurprising that the movie is getting a Blu-ray treatment...but make mo mistake, this is as bad as all of that probably sounds.

Let's get the good out of the way first. According to director Stewart Raffill, on his audio commentary, the producer insisted that the lead character be disabled and that the production cast a real disabled actor, which is pretty forward-thinking for 1988 (a scene where Eric leaves a trail of plastic straws comes off as bizarrely timely 30 years later). Calegory acquits himself nicely, and in fact so do Ward, Stanley, and Caspary, all of whom are believable and not excessively wacky or awkward. Even though Rudd's favorite scene has a flabbergasting quality to it, the treatment of Eric as a character is actually pretty straightforward and probably a pretty good example of the kind of representation disabled people would prefer to see in movies: matter-of-fact, warm, and non-exploitative. The film is also blessed with a score by Alan Silvestri, which creates inescapable Back to the Future vibes.

That said, pretty much nothing else about the movie works. The character of MAC is a particularly wild miscalculation, a grotesquely ugly creature with a frozen facial expression, terrifying eyeballs, and a flexibility that only makes him even creepier -- try not to shiver when he extends one of his arms, or avoid having nightmares after you've seen MAC's ugly mug plastered, cartoon-style, against a windshield. The character can't emote, can't talk, and never generates any of the warmth or sympathy of Spielberg's superior creature creation. In fact, Raffill and Steve Feke's screenplay kind of makes MAC and his family out to be a huge threat to everyone they encounter, causing electrical surges, insanely deadly car crashes, riling up hordes of barking dogs, and, finally, blowing up an entire convenience store and perhaps the strip mall surrounding it. Frankly, by the end of the movie, it's hard to disagree with the government agents who think the creatures are dangerous.

The movie is also just generally inexplicable, cribbing the entire story from E.T. yet somehow managing to feel like nothing matters. There is no particular ticking clock for most of the film, with the agents mostly disappearing for 40 minutes, and none of the characters ever seem to react like human beings to anything. Mom is furious when Eric claims a creature she doesn't believe exists drills holes in her walls, fills her living room with plants, and cuts a triangle in her front door, but only seems bothered by it for about an hour, before the entire mess is magically resolved (and the kids have to convince her they didn't do it themselves). MAC's constant whistling and half of his chaos is never remarked upon or seemingly processed by the characters, who all treat him like a lovable scamp. Worst of all, the film's final third is just largely boring, with Eric, MAC, and the rest of the crew trying to hide from the agents. The movie finally one-ups itself with a truly mind-boggling ending, the culmination of a melting pot with a bunch of elements that nobody seems to have considered before mixing together.

The Blu-ray
Mac and Me arrives on Blu-ray with Shout! Factory's traditional reversible cover art. In this case, no new artwork has been commissioned: on one side, you get the original painted movie poster, and on the reverse, the VHS art featuring a still image (of Mac covering Eric's eyes. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case with no insert, and the copy that DVDTalk received had no slipcover.

The Video and Audio
Mac and Me is blessed with a surprisingly good 1.78:1 1080p AVC HD master. I would not be surprised to learn this was a fairly new hi-def presentation, prepared for streaming services or HDTV airings, and it's very satisfying in terms of grain (present), detail (pretty impressive), and color (very vivid and seemingly accurate, with no modern revisionism). It's definitely not completely new, as the grain does look a bit noisy, and print damage is common throughout, but during the early scenes, when the movie is set in the house and in colorful locations filled with Coke cans and McDonald's packaging, this is about as good as anyone could demand Mac and Me look (late scenes in the desert look a bit more drab, for whatever reason). Also, while the opening scene set on another planet exhibits a significant amount of black crush and some additional print damage, this is so limited to the single sequence that I'm guessing the crush is an intentional visual effect to make the planet seem more surreal, and the print damage is a result of the optical effects.

Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which is bright and snappy. Alan Silvestri's distractingly good score and the various action sequences are presented with decent separation and clarity, and dialogue is clean and crisp. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
The most significant extra is an all-new audio commentary, featuring co-writer and director Stewart Raffill chatting with pop culture guru and film historian Marc Edward Heuck. Raffill has pleasant memories of the production and has a pretty professional view of the film, chatting casually about the business details behind the film's development process, the short schedule he had to write and direct the movie, working with Jade Calegory, his intents and restrictions in getting the movie finished, and other parts of his career. They even get into the film's fairly blatant product placement, including McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Heuck is well-read and makes for a good sounding board to keep Raffill talking, even though some of his interjections of trivia about cast and crew don't get much of a reaction out of Raffill. The one note is that there are a couple of suspicious gaps of silence, suggesting the scissors of a legal department. Raffill also sits down for an on-camera interview, "That Little Mac in the Sky" (15:13), which covers much of the same ground, should viewers be more inclined to check out a bite-sized look into the film's production than the complete commentary.

The one other extra is the brief "Down to Earth" (4:11), sitting down with songwriter Allee Willis about her work on the movie. The attention seems to come as a surprise to her, but she chats about how she became involved and a bit about the rest of her career.

The disc rounds out with some archival material: a still gallery (4:50), an original theatrical trailer, a home video trailer, and some TV spots.

Conclusion
Look, if you love Mac and Me, this is definitely the edition of it you've been waiting for -- a surprisingly snazzy HD presentation, plus a collection of extras that may be small but probably make up for that merely by existing at all. However, the movie really isn't very good, even as a "bad movie" curiosity, so this disc only earns a rental from me.


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