I remember when this came out. It was reviewed as exactly what it is: an E.T. rip-off that is sponsored by and features outrageous product placement for McDonald’s [and Coke]. Thing is, it came six years after E.T., when any interest in rip-offs of that movie was permanently dead, which turns out to be among the least of its problems. Now, I don’t usually drink at home, alone, but I KNEW that the only way I would be able to get through this is if I was in a sedated state, so I tipped off my vodka with one of the Vicodin I had hoarded previously, and soon I was in a state where I could face this monstrosity.
We open on some distant planet where a family of aliens are chillin’. We will see a number of flashbacks to this desert planet that IN NO WAY resembles the California desert, and after a while you start to think, “Well what do these aliens eat?” Because there’s nothing there. But I guess this question is partially answered when Daddy Alien sticks a straw like a half-inch into the ground and water spurts out. Which means that the water must be held in some sort of container held just beneath the surface, as if it weren’t, it would seep through the soil. I guess the entire planet is like one giant juice box.
So anyway, within a few minutes this lander from Earth, uh, lands. It wastes no time in setting about picking up samples and stuff, apparently not needing any diagnostics after its long flight through the galaxy, and not needing to establish contact with NASA. The alien family walks right up to it, and helpfully places a choice rock sample right into its robot hand. All the thanks they get are to be sucked up through a vacuum hose. It seems that the aliens are very stretchable, as their adult-sized bodies can fit through a hose of eight inches in diameter. Then the NASA probe picks up and returns to Earth, having been on the alien planet not more than four minutes. You know, we really have to question where our tax dollars are going when we find out we’re sending spacecraft up with the purpose of landing, picking up about two rocks, and leaving right away. Unless the sole intent was to abduct an alien family, which seems the most logical conclusion.
So the craft returns to Earth, and scientists start to inspect it. When they hear something ALIVE MOVING AROUND inside the spacecraft THAT HAS JUST RETURNED FROM A DISTANT PLANET, they see no danger in just opening it right up. The family comes out in a scene that was directly reminiscent of when the alien first escapes into the ship in Alien, with the baby alien getting separated from the others.
Now this alien. He is naked and flesh tone, with huge blue eyes, horn-like nubs, a face like an old woman, and Yoda-like ears. His skin is mottled with reddish spots that make him look like he has a serious skin condition or is in fact decomposing. He looks like that dead woman that came out of the bathtub in The Shining. AND THIS IS THE THING WE ARE SUPPOSED TO COME TO LOVE. I have written in my notes: “Creature! Naked! Repulsive!” So the creature, who is accomplished via an animatronic rubber doll, touches this electric fence which causes it to stretch out behind [see below], then runs out and SPLATS FLAT on the windshield of a car like something out of a Road Runner cartoon. You see why you NEED to be drunk to face this.
So Christine Ebersole, currently starring in the Broadway incarnation of Grey Gardens, plays Mom, who is driving her two boys [all night, apparently] from somewhere to California, were they are moving. The alien gets in the car with them and displays his preference for Coca-Cola products, which are available at McDonalds restaurants everywhere. The next morning the family arrives at their new home, and we discover that the younger boy, Eric, is in a wheelchair. The kids see their new home and say “This is totally rad!” and “You scored big, Mom!” By the way, when they first pull up to their house, the first thing they see is the girl next door, Debbie, who you will notice has a lizard in her hair.
Do I need to tell you that the alien snuck into the house? I didn’t think so. So Eric is sitting there looking at the pic of his family back when his dad was around, and—stop the presses! His dad was HOT! Check out that pic above, and look at that rakish smile! And the shades! I love that. We never find out what happened to Dad, but I assume he’s dead. We also never find out how Eric came to be handicapped, but of course the first thing I pictured was his Dad getting a blow job from a hooker in the front seat while little Eric was in the back, with Dad saying “Let Dad show you how it’s done!” then BAM!: the cement truck, leaving poor Eric physically paralyzed from the waist down, and emotionally paralyzed from psychosexual issues that will haunt him until his dying day. Unfortunately none of this happens in the movie. So idiot Eric simply doesn’t happen to notice the repulsive alien being standing right next to him, perhaps because he finds it hard to turn away from the bag of product-placed Skittles impossible to ignore in his lap. The alien, outside, does this sort of cosmic whistle / twilight bark thing that either contacts his family or just makes him think of them. I thought that he was remembering happy times back on his planet, but I realized after reading IMDb comments that we are seeing his actual family wandering around the California desert. It’s just that both settings used the same location, so it’s impossible to tell them apart. Then the alien wanders around Eric’s bedroom, starting up his electric toys with a touch, because aliens contain electricity, as everyone knows. Now, the sickly sweet sentimentality of this movie was causing me to pray for all manner of evil havoc, so my first thought was how awesome it would be if the alien touched the electric blanket that covered our tiny hero and charred little Eric to a cinder, but it didn’t happen. Then Eric goes downstairs and is besieged by the alien, who keeps coming at him with power tools, including a rather phallic drill and a round saw through the front door… and it’s TERRIFYING. Actually, a lot of the first half of this movie is quite inappropriately terrifying, not least due to the appearance of our alien friend, who looks like he evolved from the Naked Mole Rat. Compare:
This alien come to be named MAC, which stands for Mysterious Alien Creature, a name NOT INFLUENCED IN THE SLIGHTEST by the fact that McDonalds underwrote this movie. I actually was [apparently] asleep for the part where they come up with this name, but I feel confident that it involved Eric saying something along the lines of: “He’s such a mysterious alien creature. Hey, I know…!” Personally I would have called him ANMR, for Alien Naked Mole Rat, which might sound like “Anmer,” which sounds like Aylmer, everyone’s favorite erudite alien who kills people but also deals hallucinogenic drugs.
Anyway, for some reason ANMR decides to landscape the living room, laying down a bed of sand and making all these trees and plants and flowers. I don’t know why, but it seems that the house has reverted to nature. Mom wakes up and freaks, saying “The house is destroyed!” then, a second later, “I’m going back to bed.” So obviously Mom’s a denier. Prescription painkiller addiction cannot be far away—although, I reflect with shame, I WAS on Vicodin even as I watched. Anyway, Mom blames Eric for the full-scale re-landscaping, even though he’s paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
So Eric needs some time to chill. To get things in perspective. So he goes out to appreciate nature, when suddenly his wheelchair starts rolling down the hill—of course there’s a shot of Eric grabbing the brake and it coming off in his hand—and you’re sitting there like “WTF??” when suddenly THE KID IN THE WHEELCHAIR FLIES OFF A CLIFF!!! This made me BOLT up in my chair. I could NOT believe what I was seeing. Eric falls and flails around in the lake [oh yeah, of course there’s a LAKE], while you in the audience are shouting “Drown! Die!” but he doesn’t, the ANMR saves him. Drat.
So then we meet Courtney, the older sister of Debbie, who works at McDonalds, and appears in her uniform shirt complete with McDonalds logo. She is immediately attracted to Michael, Eric’s older brother. Pheromones, you know. Then Eric and Debbie [who has removed the decorative lizard from her hair] leave a trail of cups of Coca-Cola leading to Eric’s room. Soon they’ve got an alien in their room, which somehow they KNOW that they can suck up into a vacuum hose with a nozzle about as wide as your wrist. Now, there is often a MOMENT in bad movies where one goes from bemused suspension of disbelief to “This Is Such Shit!” and this is that moment, as the script is obviously no longer playing along with us, pretending that somehow it’s logical that these kids would know that these aliens are vacuumable. So then the vacuum, ANMR inside, slides up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other wall, Debbie still attached… and the track across the ceiling and walls allowing this to happen CLEARLY visible. Anyway, somehow he gets out, and cleans up the living room that night. By the way, you will have noticed that the family has seemed to adjust quite well to the fact that their living room suddenly had trees and rocks and plants in it that appeared overnight.
Then Mom and her wheelchair-bound son go out for a jog [you know how big McDonalds is on physical activity], with the kid wheeling along next to her, as we hear a song playing that says “We’ll be best friends forever,” which I think is a little cruelly close to home, once you realize that Eric will probably never have sex and could quite possibly still be at his mother’s side when he’s 54.
Then it’s time to go to Debbie’s birthday party, which is, of course, happening at McDonalds. I really admire the way the product placements for McDonalds and Coke and Skittles are worked so naturally and unobtrusively into the story. I’m not sure that ALL McDonalds birthday parties feature synchronized break-dancing out in the parking lot, and another huge dancing party inside what seems to be the nicest, most spacious McDonalds EVER, but I’m sure most of them do. ANMR is dressed up like a teddy bear and dances on the counter to this horrible 80s dance-pop. Also invited to this party are three adult football players who have developed a synchronized dance routine, and Ronald McDonald himself, who receives major coverage.
Now, in the spirit of disclosure I have to tell you that I started falling asleep around 55 minutes in, woke fitfully until 1:10, at which point I turned it off and went to bed, the Vicodin and Vodka finally claiming my consciousness. I was late to work the next day because I wanted to watch the rest, because I wanted to get this movie OUT OF MY HOUSE. But I didn’t even bother to go back and fill in the crucial details that occurred during that 15 minutes where I was weaving in and out. Because I don’t care.
Now, sometime during that time, some government operatives come on the case, and they invade the McDonalds party and turn it into an adolescent bloodbath. Actually they don’t, but how cool would it have been if they did? Anyway, the kids take the ANMR in the minivan and go out to the desert, where they quickly locate the rest of his family all dehydrated in an abandoned mine. What kind of hydration would bring them back to life? Why, nothing but Coca-Cola, of course. They also, wouldn’t you know, love Skittles. The kids take off, but when they stop at a light next to a woman who is enjoying some Coca-Cola products, and Daddy alien breaks the glass to take it out of her hand. That’s what I like to see: Aliens with brand loyalty. If you look quickly and freeze-frame, you can see that the Daddy alien inadvertently but quite clearly flips the girl the bird as he pulls the can away.
So for some reason they have to stop at the supermarket [double coupons?] and the aliens wander in. They knock over a pyramid of—what else?—Coca-Cola cans that just HAPPEN to be right there in frame, and Daddy alien takes the gun from the security guard, which makes everyone freak out. Then the police show up and shout “This is the police! Put down your gun and nothing will happen to you!” and you’re like “Idiot! Does that Naked Mole Rat thing LOOK like he understands English?” Then the police start firing, and little Eric in his wheelchair runs—well, you know what I mean—toward the store and the aliens. But, as anyone who has seen a movie knows, one or two shots fired at anything will cause it to EXPLODE, even if that thing is, you know, a giant full-sized supermarket. So, what, was everything in that store except for the Coca-Cola aisle pure nitro glycerine? That store EXPLODES. And we can see the silhouette of a little superimposed wheelchair relatively close, where poor, handicapped Eric is being cooked alive by the wall of flame. Once the fire dies down, they run to Eric—unconscious, but without a scratch from the MAJOR EXPLOSION that just took place twenty feet from him—and pronounce him DEAD! I was like “Fuck YEAH!” [although you KNOW they’re going to bring him back to life]. The aliens survived being in the epicenter of the blast, and they come do a mind-meld around Eric and soon enough he’s alive again.
The next thing we see is a courthouse where the alien family, now dressed in clothes—with the youngest, our hero, clad in the briefly-available line of McDonalds clothes, Mac Kids—being sworn in as American citizens. They drive off in a convertible, and as they do a word balloon appears from the car, saying “We’ll be back!”
…And an eager America still waits. This movie made $6 million during its entire theatrical run.
I don’t know what to say. It was just so WRONG in every respect. The main problem, I think, is that our lovable alien IS REPULSIVE. You know, E.T. was BROWN, and his skin looked sort of thick and leathery, whereas this thing is a gross flesh tone with reddish, irritated-looking sections and diseased-looking spots, and during his every appearance you are a little uncomfortable because you can’t help but imagine how sick it would be if you touched him. Which is not to mention that his face looks like a caricature of a saggy old man, and certain of those jowls resemble, well, balls. Then there’s the numerous, not-at-all disguised product placement, and the fact that this movie is encouraging kids to eat and drink pure sugar and crappy fast-food. Not to mention the numerous incidents of violence toward the handicapped. And then the whole idea of coming out with an E.T. rip-off six years after the original, and the whole idea of starting a line of fast-food themed movies. Ugh. Writer-director Stewart Raffill also wrote and directed the also hideous The Ice Pirates, which at least had the advantage of not being a McDonalds tie-in.
Only if very drunk and in the presence of friends.