If there is one thing that the lovable little extraterrestrial, E.T. taught the film industry, it is that a cute alien and product placement are a match made in heaven. With each handful of Reese’s Pieces that E.T. scarfed down, sales of the candy morsels soared. Now, if an alien from another world liked Reese’s, imagine how much they might like Coca-Cola and McDonalds. And so, the two junk food behemoths joined forces – resulting in the 1988 film, Mac and Me.
A typical green-blooded alien family has the misfortune of being sucked into a NASA space probe while trying to enjoy a simple outing in the park. When the probe finally makes its way back to earth, the youngest of the cosmic clan manages to escape from the laboratory it is being held in, but soon finds itself lost in this strange new world. It becomes a stowaway aboard a van driven by single mom, Janet Cruise and her two young sons, Eric and Michael. When Eric, who is bound to a wheelchair, discovers the celestial stowaway, he decides to make friends and gives him the name, M.A.C., short for Mysterious Alien Creature (of course).
With the help of his childhood buddies, Eric does his best to reunite the alien refugee with his family. The tricky part is keeping the snooping Government from finding MAC before the boy can accomplish this good deed. And along the way, we discover that Coca-Cola is the sole substance that can keep MAC alive (who would have guessed). We also learn that there is no better place for a rousing dance routine than within a (wait for it…) McDonald’s restaurant, complete with a cameo by the big cheese himself, Ronald McDonald.
Lurking underneath all of that product-placement was a lighthearted film that endeared itself to many an 80s youngster. Credit is due to the producers of the film, who chose to cast a wheelchair-bound sufferer of spina bifida in the role of Eric (played by Jade Calegory). They also made sure that a chunk of the box-office proceeds went to various children’s charities. All in all, Mac and Me might have been simply another formulaic “boy meets stranded alien” film, complete with its share of corporate sponsors, but it was also a charming little movie. Young viewers most certainly recognized this fact, all while slurping down gallons of Coca-Cola in the process.
Were you a fan of Mac and Me as a kid? If so, we welcome your thoughts on this 80s film in our comments section.