Mac and Me

By Adam Lippe

macandme1While it would be fair to complain that the recent #1 film in the US, Disturbia, is a movie built on shameless product placement (check out that opening Coca-Cola moment in the first scene!), and doesn’t have to make a dime to be profitable, the producers still have something to strive for. While Adam Sandler spent his early career in 90 minute ads for Subway (Happy Gilmore) and Jean-Claude Van Damme paraded around in Double Team, where Coca-Cola was actually written in as a plot point and twice a method of escape, no film has managed to be as whoringly audacious as Mac and Me, where the products are not just saviors of the characters (such as Coke bringing aliens back to life) but actually have them named after the product.

I’m sure the producers were not trying to be as cynical as it seemed at the time, they believed in making a genuine children’s film, modeled after E.T., and that placed the child characters in situations that would genuinely reflect how real children would behave. Sure, some children go to McDonald’s. I’m sure they even occasionally come upon enthusiastic representatives of said restaurant. It is also likely that the aliens these children have been hiding might engage in some entertainment and engagement of their own, such as dancing with other employees of this restaurant.

macandme2

See? It's just children having a good time. Nothing unusual at all.

See? It's just children having a good time. Nothing unusual at all.

The film is also willing to explore deeper and more disturbing issues, and I don't just refer to accepting people who look different.

The film is also willing to explore deeper and more disturbing issues, and I don't just refer to accepting people who look different.

What I'm really saying is that sometimes children have traumatizing situations with adults, and they don't know how to handle it, or that what they are doing is wrong.

What I'm really saying is that sometimes children have traumatizing situations with adults, and they don't know how to handle it, or that what they are doing is wrong.

Occasionally, this leads to the child having problems responding and reacting in a "normal" fashion.

Occasionally, this leads to the child having problems responding and reacting in a "normal" fashion.

The producers had plenty of moxie in other ways, such as using a lead actor who is handicapped and in a wheelchair. Most films would treat him with kid gloves but they chose to show what happens when such a child finds himself in peril, when he's betrayed by what he relies on and loses control.

The producers had plenty of moxie in other ways, such as using a lead actor who is handicapped and in a wheelchair. Most films would treat him with kid gloves but they chose to show what happens when such a child finds himself in peril, when he's betrayed by what he relies on and loses control.

And while aliens can be seen as cute and cuddly, especially to fatherless children with no moral guidance and no knowledge of how to lead a normal life which is how they got paralyzed in the first place*, sometimes they are also frightening.

And while aliens can be seen as cute and cuddly, especially to fatherless children with no moral guidance and no knowledge of how to lead a normal life which is how they got paralyzed in the first place*, sometimes they are also frightening.

Besides, if we can't take advantage of an audience's sympathy by using a paraplegic to sell products, then who can we trust?

Besides, if we can't take advantage of an audience's sympathy by using a paraplegic to sell products, then who can we trust?

*Clearly, this was the hidden message all along.

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.