Mac and Me is famous for all the wrong reasons; released in 1988, it's an obvious rip-off of Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial filled with so many references to McDonald's it's barely more than a 90-minute commercial with campy, sci-fi window dressing. Indeed, Mac and Me is often regarded as the worst movie ever made-and that's really saying something! Still, the film might have been infamous for a completely different reason, had the original ending of the film remained intact. Before proceeding further, be warned that we're now entering Spoiler Territory!
The movie follows a young alien, separated from his family and stranded on Earth. This wayward E.T. soon makes friends with a young boy in a wheelchair. And hijinks ensue. In the original ending of Mac and Me (which you can see in Shout! Factory's recent Blu-ray re-release) young protagonist Eric (played by Jade Calegory) is blown up in an explosion before being resurrected by his faithful extraterrestrial pal. An alternate ending (scrapped after test audiences responded poorly), however, saw Eric getting shot in the chest by a trigger-happy cop! Even back in 1988, this had to be a something of a shock to the system, especially considering Mac and Me sports a benign PG rating! Though this unused ending isn't one of the extras on Shout! Factory's recent release, it was recently unearthed and shared on Twitter by producer and film curator Peter Kuplowsky, who salvaged the footage form a Japanese release of the film. That's right: The death by copy scene actually remained in at least some of Mac and Me's international cuts. He explains:
"After years of doubt, indisputable proof that the kid from MAC and ME gets shot on camera in the Japanese release of the film. This is cut out of every US version that I've seen; no mention of it on the Shout! Factory release."
He goes on to add a few zingers:
"I am hearing rumors that eBay is crashing from unprecedented searches for Japanese VHS tapes of MAC and ME... Does McDonald's realize they spent millions of dollars to both drop a child in a wheelchair off a cliff AND shoot him in the back on camera?"
For all of its shortcomings and detractors, there's always been one aspect of Mac and Me that's worthy of all of our praises. The film features a young protagonist in a wheelchair, but never references the character's disability or treats him any differently than able-bodied characters. This progressive sensitivity was decades ahead of societal stereotypes regarding people overcoming handicaps and their portrayal in the media. What's also worth noting is that Calegory actually was and is wheelchair bound, as the actor suffers from Spina Bifida. Though his acting filmography is small, he participated in wheelchair races throughout his teens and currently lives a quiet life in Chandler, AZ where he makes a living as an artist and photographer. The point is, Hollywood is still more apt to cast able-bodied actors, even when the characters they portray have disabilities. So, kudos to Mac and Me for being way ahead of the curve in this small but important arena.
Now if only the film wasn't such a shit-show, the important messages buried beneath the campy effects and Big Macs might have shined through.