The Silver Lining of the Worst Movie Ever Made

The Silver Lining of the Worst Movie Ever Made


Product placement is a subtle art and when
it’s done well, a few seconds of footage can instantly raise the profile of a given
brand. Perhaps the best known example of this is
the use of Reece’s Pieces in E.T., which saw a 65% boost in sales almost overnight. This makes it kind of fitting that arguably
the worst example of product placement in a movie appeared in a shameless rip-off of
E.T. called Mac and Me. (Even the title was taken from E.T., as the
working title for E.T. had once been E.T. and Me.) Released in 1988, six years after E.T., to
a chorus of zero and one star reviews, Mac and Me has become somewhat infamous in film
circles for being one of the single worst movies ever made. (Despite the editor of this article having
extremely fond recollections of the film as a child… I see now that this must be like Knight Rider;
if you loved that show as a kid, do yourself a favour and don’t try to re-watch it as
an adult…) While critics of the time panned almost every
aspect of the Mac and Me, the most common complaint amongst the sea of bile directed
towards this cinematic monstrosity was the ludicrous amount of painfully obvious product
placement it contained. Particular attention was drawn to the inexplicable
amount of screen-time dedicated to both Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, which are prominently featured
in almost every key scene in the entire movie. For those who’ve not seen this cinematic
classic, as noted, the film’s “plot” is an unabashed knock-off of E.T.’s, focusing
on a stranded alien called MAC (which is an acronym for Mysterious Alien Creature, and
totally “not” a ham-fisted allusion to anything to do with McDonald’s…) who befriends
a wheelchair bound young man called Eric Cruise while trying to reunite itself with its family. If that wasn’t on the nose enough, the alien
is also being pursued by a shady government agency. The two films even had a near identical budget
of $13 million for Mac and Me vs. $10 million for E.T. (When adjusting for inflation for the 1988
Mac and Me and the 1982 E.T., that comes out to $26 million and $25 million respectively
today.) This brings us to the product placement. For starters, one of the trailers for the
film started with a direct message from Ronald McDonald who is shown reading a copy of the
script which is the same color scheme as his outfit. Ronald also featured heavily in commercials
and posters for the film, in some cases only having his billing preceded by the logo for
the company that produced the film. Ronald also briefly appears in the film’s
most infamous scene, which features an impromptu almost 10 minute long choreographed breakdance
featuring dozens of dancers inside and around a McDonald’s restaurant that is never adequately
explained. This continues even as the plot unfolds around
the dancers who are oblivious to the government stooges chasing a boy and his alien friend
disguised in a teddy bear outfit. But we’re not done yet- as if having about
10% of the film’s runtime spent inside a McDonald’s full of people exuberantly dancing
wasn’t overt enough, the film also features a main character who works at McDonald’s
and wears her uniform in every scene she appears in, most of which she wasn’t at work for. That’s not to mention the Oscar-worthy dialogue
in which the family discusses how incredibly good Big Macs are. As for Coca-Cola, along with being prominently
featured in several scenes, either in characters’ hands or handily placed McDonald’s cups,
it ends up being a key plot point later in the movie when the main character uses it
to revive Mac’s ailing alien parents. Yes, this movie features a scene in which
a character is shown bringing someone back to life by pouring Coca-Cola into their dying
mouth. This is then immediately followed by a scene
showing the same aliens risking detection to buy more Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola, along with Skittles are also the
only things the eponymous Mac is shown to consume, with the latter being used to lure
him out of hiding like a grotesque parody of the Reece’s Pieces scene in E.T. The film also features a rather prominent
plug for the department store Sears, when it is revealed the main character’s mother
relocated her entire family to another state because she was offered a job there. Unsurprisingly from all this, the director
and screenwriter of the film, Stewart Raffill, noted the genesis of the film was hardly conducive
to producing quality entertainment, despite its relatively high budget for the time: Mac and Me? That was another movie where somebody called
me up and he was a producer who had worked on quite a few films. He’d made a lot of big movies, but he decided
he want to make his own movie. And he raised the money from one of the main
partners at McDonalds—I think, like, the produce provider for McDonalds—and he put
up the money to do that movie with the understanding that the proceeds from that movie would go
to the Ronald McDonald Foundation. So I was hired out of the blue. And the producer asked me to come down to
the office. So I did and he had a whole crew there, a
whole crew on the payroll. It was amazing. He had the transportation captain. The camera department head. The AD. The Production Manager. He had everybody already hired and I said,
“Well, what’s the script?” And he said, “We don’t have a script. I don’t like the script. You have to write the script. You’re gonna have to write it quick so prep
the movie and write the script on the weekends.” Yeah, so I’d go and lock myself in a hotel
on Friday night, write ’til Monday, anticipate what the locations were going to be, go out
and find the locations, design the aliens and all that stuff. It was kind of a messy way to make a movie. (Note: the producer in question, R.J. Louis,
among many other movies, also produced The Karate Kid, Karate Kid Part II, and Ocean’s
Eleven.) One thing we can say for certain though is
that although this movie has been rightly panned and called one of the worst movies
of all time, it does feature a silver lining- Jade Calegory, the actor who played the main
character, Eric Cruise. Now for most actors this role would have been
an embarrassing footnote they’d rather not discuss. (Fun fact: this movie was the first one Jennifer
Aniston was ever in.) For Calegory, though, it was one of the defining
moments in his young life, because, like his character, he too is disabled, having been
born with spina bifida. Why is this important? Well, to begin with, disabled characters in
Hollywood films are almost always played by people who have no such disability, and this
was even more so the case in the 1980s. But far more importantly, the film never makes
a big deal about the character’s handicap. It isn’t an integral part of his character
or plot and it isn’t played for laughs or sympathy; he’s refreshingly, and very purposefully,
portrayed as just a normal kid doing otherwise normal things until he encounters his little
alien friend. The fact that he’s in a wheelchair isn’t
even commented on by any character in the movie. Moreover, the fact that the kid was in a wheelchair
both in the film and in real life wasn’t overtly mentioned in the marketing campaigns
either. As Raffill note, “…when they finished
it was as if the fact that they used a real encumbered person to play the [character]
didn’t mean anything to even the people who lived in the world.” While in a perfect world this shouldn’t
be notable in any way, as noted in a LA Times article from the time of the film’s release,
this was (and still is) a huge deal because it marked one of the exceptionally few times
in film history where a disabled actor had secured a role for a character that wasn’t
“written disabled” and didn’t have the disability made into a defining character
trait or plot element. In stark contrast to this, Calegory later
noted when he showed up for other auditions to play various disabled characters, not only
were the characters always “written disabled”, but it was generally very obvious that the
casting directors had no interest in hiring an actual disabled person. “They were just kind of bringing disabled
people in there just to say they did, you know what I mean?” Fitting then that in Mac and Me they found
a boy, Calegory, who’d never acted before at the time and whose only real qualifications
for the role was that he was a kid who had a disability, but was otherwise pretty much
like any other young boy- exactly the message they were going for. Speaking of this, according to his mother,
among Calegory’s many other childhood exploits, when he was five years old and literally only
a few minutes out of the hospital after surgery and still in a full body cast, she turned
her back on him for just a moment… only to turn back to find him flying by precariously
perched spread-eagle on a skateboard he’d found somewhere. Calegory later noted of his attitude on life: You shouldn’t dwell on what you can’t
do. Focus on what you can do. And the more you see what you can do, the
more you come to realize there are no limitations in life. In a 1988 interview, a then 12-year-old Jade
Calegory revealed that he’d gotten so sick of answering the question “Why are you in
a wheelchair” that his stock response was to look the person asking in the eye and say
“Vietnam”.

100 Comments

  1. Ready to learn more fun facts? Then check out this video and find out Why a Final Performance is Called a “Swan Song”:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLoGBP0eN0c

  2. Okay, you morons haven't seen Ed Wood Jr's "Glen or Glenda" yet, and you are totally ignorant of just how bad movies can get. You are NOT cinephile, and you should be ashamed of yourself for claiming expertise!

  3. Wow, sounds like something Kim Jong-Il would have made. Oh wait, he made a movie, “Pulgasari”, which was actually a decent ‘80’s Godzilla rip-off. Here’s to making a movie worse than a brutal, authoritarian, bouffant-haired freaky Korean tyrant… 🤦‍♂️

  4. Great. Now that you've dredged up all these repressed memories, I'm going to need to see a therapist again. 😉 JK

  5. Ppl w disabilities are overlooked for things all the time, as soon as you have the tag 'disabled' for anything ppl make assumptions and they're usually wrong, I was told many times I'd never do this or that based on assumptions of ppl who hadn't even talked to me face to face, they write a report and that echos thru the system and they just say 'you can't do that, you're disabled'. Do they offer opportunities to help you exceed any limits, nope, they just assume you can't. When you exceed what they say you can do they deny you did it because it doesn't fit their paperwork. Maybe they're more disabled than we are, because they see such preconceived limits as a wall, how do you deal w walls, you go thru them, oops, that was C-4, BOOM no wall. Especially when it's a mental illness, they just say nope, you can't, when you do and go waaaayyyy beyond what they say you can they deny it and stand there looking at stupid as they really are. When they can't grasp quantum physics, metaphysics and astro physics as well as day to day physics and it's no prob for you, who's the really handicapped? If they had actually stood in my way physically like a wall, they'd have found the same approach as the wall, destruction, go right thru em and keep going, after disposing of the bodies. Biggest obstacle these days is red tape and agencies unwilling to do their fuckin jobs.

  6. Don't forget The Wizard, a 96 minute Nintendo commercial. Or there was Back to the Future which gained funding from the California Raisin society by saying it would make them as popular as reece's pieces (the only mention in the movie of them is a bench a homeless man is sleeping on).

  7. "Actually. Nukie was the direct rip-off from E.T. as it was made and filmed in 1987. Then followed by Mac and Me in 1988. Nukie was a South African film production. Which eventually spawned a few more E.T. rip-offs."
    -A.H. Roberts

  8. "The reason this movie had product placement centered on McDonald's restaurant establishment was because McDonald's corporation sponsored and co-funded the film."
    -A.H. Roberts

  9. "For starters. Mac and Me had a budget of $13 million not $30 million. And unlike E.T. the $6.5 million it made during release went to charity. E.T. charitable donation….Zero."
    -A.H. Roberts

    P.S. You really failed at this one Whistler!!

  10. "Mac and Me started the fad of cinema-product-placement. As today's movies put in devices, automobiles, and other products into movies even before they're released into public. So to call this movie the most renowned for placing commercial products into films is overstating the fact that current movies place more products into their respected films alot more than this classic bomb."
    -A.H. Roberts

  11. Oh boy…. "Mac & Me"…. I remember the 1st time I heard of this shit was thanks to "Phelous"….

    My favorite scene from this was the kid falling off a cliff!

  12. I ain't going to lie as a child extra back in the 80s, "Mac and Me" was probably the funnest time I ever had on the set of a movie all the McDonald's you can eat… And there was just candy and snacks all over the place… from "The Wizard", "Little monsters" and even a few episodes of "Saved by the Bell"… Mac and me was the greatest time I ever had working on a set as a child…

  13. it took me yrs to relize this was a movie i always thought it was a long commercial for MC D's and im still loving some of it lol

  14. I was seriously thinking that the only good thing to come out of this movie is Paul Rudd using the clip of the kid falling down the hill every time he's on Conan.

  15. If you really think Mac and Me was the worst movie ever made then you probably never seen rollergator have you?

  16. I never revisit the past shows and movies I liked. I mean I do not have much rosy retrospection but some is necessary if there is a point to facing all the pain life brings. Better not smash them rose tinted glasses and leave the past in the past. I mean ask the 3 year old me and I would have told you the best song ever made was Puff the Magic Dragon. Oh and yes I loved me some Knight Rider.

  17. Re Simon's words about 'Knight Rider' – I watched every ep of it when I was a teenager.

    Now… I wonder what the hell was wrong with me.

  18. Ummm wouldn't the silver lining be that the proceeds went to the Ronald Mcdonald Foundation? It's a huge charity that helps a ALOT OF PEOPLE. Babies, Kids, and Teens.

  19. Mac and me sounds more like big Mac and me.

    So McDonald's is healthy for aliens? The scriptwriter must have been from another planet.

  20. Fun fact: Apparently not content with a disabled kid in a wheelchair just falling off a cliff, in the original ending for "Mac and Me" Jade Calegory's character gets shot and killed in the end.

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/watch-the-alternate-gruesome-climax-of-the-cult-classi-1828190394

  21. Vietnam? Is that why Charlie from always sunny said that line when he was in a wheelchair? Fred Savage? Am I crazy?

  22. . Yeah, the product placement was obnoxious and it was not a good movie. But I didn't find any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies good, including the first. And all the Micheal Bayen (he directs all of them of that series, right? I don't know directors or actors well) Transformer movies are pretty bad to me too, perhaps even worse than Pirates. Also Independence Day is bad too(tobacco produce placement is evil!). And we are talking about big budget movies that did well. I mean I'd probably struggle sitting through Mac and me more than some of those others because the absurd product placement would bug me, but it's close.

    And if you look really early in movie history you can find super racist horrible black and white crappy movies that were shown. So you really got to look low for worse movies shown in theatres.

  23. My crazy parents let me watch Mac and Me but not E.T. I still haven't seen E.T. kind of on principle but probably should. I really don't remember any of the product placement though not even the breakdancing lol

  24. If nobody mentioned it already…
    The part where he pours coke into the dying parent to bring them back… Coke once ran a failed ad campaign in China. Cokes slogan "Coke ads life" apparently when translated poorly into Chinese comes out as "Coke brings your parents back from the dead". Rather fitting here I'd say!

  25. Not that it matters but… thebsolute worst movie ever made (IMNSHO) was "UHF" by Weird Al. I've tried 4 times to FORCE myself to watch and never made it more than 5 minutes in…

  26. I’m over a year late! But I wanted to comment anyway because I have a fondness for this movie.
    I was born with Spina Bifida in 1985, and my family was very involved with the Spina Bifida Association of America. My mother actually did some writing for their newsletter which lead to her meeting Calegory.
    As a kid seeing an actor who was also a kid with the same disability I have was one of the coolest things. That part of my life was full of realizations about my limitations, and hospital stays would be a regular occurrence, so seeing a person like me being in a movie was a reminder that I could still do things like anyone else.

  27. This has answered a question I’ve had since i saw this as a child. If I remember correct the wheelchair kid dies in the movie and the Aliens brought him back to life but he was still in a wheelchair. I said to myself this is stupid if they had the power to raise the dead then surely they could fix his disability. To this day that scene has bothered me and when I bring it up no one else seems to get it.

  28. Loved the movie as a child, and still like it today as well as the original Night Rider, Air Wolf, A-Team and many others from that time period.

  29. I think it has a bit of placement competition with the three BMW commercials, co-starring some British guy playing a spy named 007. Had some other cool toys, too.

  30. Worse movie ever made? You have apparently never seen "King Solomans Mine" with Sharon Stone….walked out after 15 minutes lol what a pile of dung!

  31. You can see Mac And Me on Netflix, if you don't mind a couple of robots and a guy making jokes over the dialog. It's one of the better Mystery Science Theater episodes of the latest season.

  32. this brings to mind the show “Threshold” from 2005 which starred a pretty unknown at the time Peter Dinklage. The role he auditioned for wasn’t written for a little person, he just happened to audition and be great. If you watch that show, I don’t think they ever really address that he’s a little person – he’s just a scientist who happens to be a little person. Not to say that being a little person is a disability but it’s similar in that typically when there’s a little person in a show the story revolves around or in heavily influenced by that.

  33. @„do yourself a favor“
    I’ve seen an episode of Knight Rider recently. Still holds up! 🙂 The humor is surprisingly good and hasn‘t aged much…

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