A Thanksgiving Turkey Called MAC AND ME

The past couple of years have been ones of beginnings and ends to Mystery Science Theater 3000, now celebrating its 30th (!) anniversary. We’ve seen the regular run of MST3K box sets come to an end due to rights issues with the remaining episodes (though Shout Factory are re-releasing the old Rhino Home Video sets, with Volume 8 coming out November 27), but we’ve also received a bounty of new MST3K episodes— 14 in last year’s Season 11, and another 6 dropping on Netflix on Thanksgiving Day itself, November 22.  If that’s not enough turkey on your plate, this Sunday — November 18 — is going to be the traditional “Turkey Day,” with six episodes of classic MST3K streaming all day on Shout Factory TV (www.ShoutFactoryTV.com) and on the free Pluto.TV app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc., with new intro segments with MST3K creator Joel Hodgson and Netflix-era star Jonah Ray— and a sneak preview of Season 12, aka "The Gauntlet."

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Six new episodes of MST3K arrive via Netflix on Thanksgiving day, a punishing combo of bad Italian aquatic monster movies (Killer Fish), alien-invasion riffs (The Day Time Ended), underwater horrors (Lords Of The Deep), Conan The Barbarian knock-offs (Ator, The Fighting Eagle), a movie from rip-off artists extraordinaire The Asylum (Atlantic Rim) and the bizarre McDonalds-meets- E.T.‘80s oddity Mac And Me. The sextet of films is meant to be binged in one brutal session (hence, “The Gauntlet”) and not even Patton Oswalt’s David Lynch-style hair can soften the blow of how harsh this marathon is likely to be.

As clunky as Ator is, as shameless as Atlantic Rim is, no single movie in “The Gauntlet” is as stupefyingly bad as 1988’s Mac And Me, which — to their credit — Shout Factory has released in a handsome Blu-Ray “Collector’s Edition” that does not shy away from the cult film’s incredibly poor reputation, though the commentary with cowriter/ director Stuart Raffill and film historian Marc Edward Heuck sidesteps some of the film’s most glaring problems— such as the fact that it’s basically a 100-minute ad for McDonald’s (which, through a subsidiary, financed the film), Coca-Cola and a number of other products. The story might seem simple and that’s because it is— it’s simply a rip-off of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, with rubbery young alien “MAC,” always stuck with a perma-surprised on his vaguely animatronic face,  looking disturbingly stiff and fake. And if you’re wondering, yes, the also-surprised-looking adult aliens are even creepier. WAY creepier.

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The story, thusly, involves MAC, who’s separated from his parents after they are sucked up — using some of the worst animation you’ll ever see — into a NASA space probe on their home-world. MAC hides somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, where he hides out in the home of wheelchair-bound new transplant Eric (Jade Calegory, who, in one of the film’s few graces, is actually disabled and given a chance to shine) and his family, including brother Michael (Jonathan Ward) and mother Janet (Christine Ebersole, only four years out from being in Amadeus). Wacky antics ensue as Eric tries to hide MAC from both his family and evil federal agents, with MAC occasionally showing off his powers (he can control electricity, but apparently only to zany ends) and the two of them racing through a McDonald’s — stopping long enough for MAC to disguise himself as a teddy bear and engage in a massive musical number, the likes of which you always see at a soulless fast-food chain — and a Sears… which just coincidentally featured a line of McDonald’s-branded clothing called “McKids.”

Mac

Seems that producer R.J. Louis, hot off the success of the first two Karate Kid movies, had worked with McDonald’s in the past on ad campaigns and was connected to the Ronald McDonald House charity and figured that what better way to support McDonald’s philanthropic efforts than a new version of E.T. starring a kid in a wheelchair? Locations were found and a release date set— with neither a director nor a script to work from. Stewart Raffill, a former animal trainer and B-movie director (The Ice Pirates, The Philadelphia Experiment) was forced to write on the fly with co-screenwriter Steve Feke (When A Stranger Calls) and, while he acknowledges the film’s issues, seems amazed that they even were able to pull a film together from such sketchy origins.

While it’s disappointing that actor Paul Rudd, who shows a notorious clip of Jade Calegory (er, a very fake-looking dummy of Jade Calegory) flying off a cliff in a wheelchair every time he plugs a movie on Conan O’Brien’s talk show, isn’t part of this special edition (he apparently was asked and politely declined) the handsome looking and sounding Shout Factory Blu-Ray showcases a number of strong special features, including an audio commentary between a game Stewart Raffill and film historian Marc Edward Heuck; the documentary featurette “That Little Mac In The Sky,” where Raffill details the difficulties of the production and its low budget; an interview with songwriter Allee Willis, who wrote the film’s McDonald’s-set musical number; a still gallery and trailer/TV spots.

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You can see Mac And Me in all its cheesy splendor as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000's "The Gauntlet," this Thursday, November 22, on Netflix. If you’re looking for a more traditional Turkey Day, however, a full roster of classic MST3K with new Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray host segments airs this Sunday, November 18, on Shout Factory TV.  Why not try both in this season of overindulgence? 

 

You can buy Mac And Me from Amazon or directly from Shout Factory.

You can buyMystery Science Theater 3000 Volume Eight from Amazon or directly from Shout Factory.

 

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