Posts Tagged ‘mst3k’

I admit, I’d blissfully forgotten about director Stewart Raffill’s godawful 1988 E.T. rip-off Mac And Me until it turned up as the first “episode” of the new “season” of Netflix’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival. I mean, I saw it as a kid, but I remember being fundamentally unimpressed by it even then — and now I remember why : it’s basically a 90-ish minute McDonald’s (and Coke, and Skittles — but mainly Mickey D’s) commercial strung out over the barest skeleton of a script.

If you think that’s too harsh an assessment, I assure you it’s not, and offer this mercifully brief “plot” synopsis as proof : wheelchair-bound youth Eric Cruise (played with an annoying level of over-sincerity, but no discernible talent, by Jade Calegory), his older brother, Michael (Jonathan Ward), and their mom, Janet (Christine Ebersole) are in the midst of a cross-country move from Chicago to California when an alien who was literally vacuumed aboard a NASA planetary lander along with his the family he’s now separated from stows away in the back of their mini-van after escaping government custody. Once set up in their new digs, the Cruise clan is subject to a series of weird “alien interventions,” such as when the little guy inexplicably decides to replicate the wooded area outside — in the living room of their house. The feds are hot on the tail of this extraterrestrial varmint, whom Eric has nicknamed “Mac” (for “Mysterious Alien Creature”), but fear not, as these bungling buffoons are no match for a gang of plucky teenagers led by our protagonist brothers and the literal girls next door, Debbie (Lauren Stanley) and senior sis Courtney (Katrina Caspary), who works at — McDonald’s. The kids (and several of their ostensible “friends”) are all having fun dancing and running around (keep your eyes peeled for a youthful Jennifer Aniston and Nikki Cox in the crowd of merry-makers) at a birthday party at — McDonald’s when the G-Men make their move, but by cleverly disguising “Mac” in a full-body teddy bear costume they manage to give ’em the slip and get him to his family (no need for these folks to “phone home” since they have some sort of psychic communication “wavelength” they conjure up by means of — their hands?) that’s hiding in a cave. The Earth’s atmosphere is making our visitors sick, but fortunately Coke restores them to full health, and Skittles fill their bellies with happy butterflies, and then it’s time for them to head back to their home planet after saying some less-than-tearful (for us, at any rate) farewells.

Plot holes abound in this cinematic abomination, the most noticeable probably being when Eric first gets the idea to capture “Mac” with a vacuum cleaner even though he has no reason to believe that’s gonna work because he wasn’t on the alien planet when it happened before, but that’s immaterial : something tells me that Raffill and his co-screenwriter, Steve Feke, didn’t cobble their script together to make sense, but to sell product. “Mac” is literally always drinking Coke, for instance, and Courtney has a habit of wearing her McDonald’s work uniform around even when she’s off the clock. Product placement is one thing, but Mac And Me makes all of its sponsors central to the proceedings, dispensing with the notion of “incidental” brand identification completely. It’s entirely blatant, entirely annoying, and frankly entirely cynical.

But hey, you can’t say these corporations didn’t get their money’s worth : as it turns out, producer R.J. Louis (fresh off a massive hit with The Karate Kid) actually got McDonald’s to more or less finance the entire film from top to bottom, with Coke and Skittles kicking in just enough to get in on the action, as well. So this thing doesn’t just look or feel like an extended promo spot — that’s exactly what it is. Say what you will for the Reese’s Pieces inclusion in E.T., but at least Steven Spielberg worked it into the movie rather than going the Raffill/Louis route of working a cutesy “family-friendly” science fiction yarn into their ad.

I guess the production values aren’t too bad — the alien “family” is competently-realized and the vacuuming scenes are a rather impressive example of pre-CGI effects, but that’s all I can really say in this flick’s favor : the acting is uniformly lousy, the plot is derivative and predictable, the characters are wooden in the extreme, the laughs (hell, even chuckles) are non-existent, and there is never any sense of threat or menace from the NASA (or FBI, or whatever) cops. It doesn’t even feel like anybody’s trying.

Fortunately, this crass slab of celluloid commercialization met the fate it deserved at the box office, disappearing after two weeks and a six-million-dollar gross, and while it’s available on both DVD and Blu-ray, it’s not like it’s some cult favorite that sells in steady and respectable numbers. I dare say I’m far from the only person who forgot about it altogether until the “riffed” MST3K version became available for streaming, and while it’s far from one of the series’ classic installments, if you’re gonna subject yourself to this dreck, watching Jonah, Crow, and Tom Servo rip it to shreds is the only way of making the experience bearable.

First off, my apologies for the lack of new reviews on this page lately — in addition to the usual holiday season madness (and I hope everyone’s — or should that be anyone’s –are going splendidly, wonderfully, joyously, etc.) we had something of a tragedy strike the TFG household when, on Christmas morning, we had to put one of our cats, barely-five-years-old Marty, to sleep. I won’t go into details suffice to say he was a loving little furball who spent most of his life purring away in a state of contentment that you honestly had to see to believe, and was hit by a short-fast-acting illness that made his last hours on earth way more unbearably painful than he could have possibly deserved even if he had been truly evil — which he wasn’t in any way, shape, or form. Anyway, corny and absolutely impossible as it is, I like to think of him now purring away on a giant version of his favorite black-and-white Ikea throw blanket somewhere up in the sky.

Which rather leads us,in a much less roundabout way than it would initially appear, to our subject here today — namely, comfort movies. Mrs. TFG and I are having a heck of a time adjusting to coming home to only one kitty greeting us, and taking our mind off the new emptiness in our household is of paramount importance around here lately. As you can probably guess, traditional “feel-good” Hollywood crap doesn’t do much for me, but something simple, predictable, and straightforward-as-all-get-go makes fora damn fine distraction these days, and they don’t come much more simple, predictable, and straight-forward-as-all-get-go than Don Dohler flicks, do they?

I’ve sung the praises of suburban Baltimore’s premier backyard-monster-epic-maker before on these virtual “pages,” but honestly never could have predicted just how mind-numbingly reassuring films like the one we’ll take a quick look at today, 1985’s straight-to-video The Galaxy Invader, could be until now.

As with almost any Dohler film, the plot here revolves around an alien invader who crash-lands in the Maryland woods and for some reason decides to wander around rather aimlessly instead of sending out a distress signal or trying to fix his ship or anything that would actually, you know, make sense. If said alien is truly evil (not so much the case here), then he might kill somebody, thereby attracting the attention of the local yokels, and if he’s not, then he might just be seen by somebody and that’s good enough to get the country bumpkins to form a search party and head out looking for blood. In this particular instance, evidence the guy-in-a-rubber-suit’s passing is stumbled upon by a backwoods redneck-type, who sets out to assemble a posse and find the “invader” and/or his craft in order to get rich quick.

Sure, there’s some pointless sidebar drama revolving around the daughter of the hillbillyish family at the center of the story dating some guy from a rival quite-likely-inbred clan that her dad, predictably enough, doesn’t approve of, but none of that bargain-basement Hatfields-and-McCoys stuff matters much here — the country folk are going to go out and find the alien, a cheaper-than-cheap “battle” is going to ensue that will allow Dohler to show off some of his homemade special effects quasi-wizardry, and it’ll all end with the spaceman either getting killed or leaving. I’ll refrain from saying exactly which ending transpires here so as not to give away the entire film in less than a hundred words.

Needless to say, the plot isn’t the only Dohler constant here — the cast is composed of the usual assemblage of family members, people who would never act in another film, and people who would only go on to act in other Dohler productions (including cult favorite George Stover). The shooting locales are all within a stone’s throw of the late, great Don’s house. And the dialogue is impossible tin-eared, to be generous about it.

But you know what? Sometimes none of that matters, and in fact, if you’re on the Dohler wavelength, it all just adds to the charm of the overall production. This ain’t no Cecil B. DeMille production — it’s a quick cheapie (the total budget here was less than $10,000) churned out by a guy who made monster movies for two reasons — because he loved them, and because he could. If you don’t respect that, get off this blog and go read Pauline Kael or something.

Being that the rights to The Galaxy Invader have lapsed into the public domain, it’s available on multiple DVD releases(heck, it’s even received the MST3K treatment), none of them, I’m willing to bet, treating it to any sort of sound or picture remastering, much less going to the extent of including any extras or anything. The version is my possession, a pressed-to-order DVD-R from an outfit called Synergy Entertainment, serves just fine. Shot in 16mm, it’s presented full-frame, warts-and-all, and features mono sound. Works just fine for me. Nothing about The Galaxy Invader is supposed to be great, after all — it just is what it is (and truth be told, as far as Dohler films go, it’s even more routine and frankly uninspired than usual — it’s pure Don-by-the-numbers fare), and when you’re trying to take your mind off other matters, it does the job quite nicely without taxing one iota of your mental energy. So thank you, Don, and if I believed in heaven, I’d ask you to go on over and keep my cat company.