Originality lies smothered under special sauce and wilting on a sesame seed bun in the science-fiction kiddie show, "Mac and Me" (citywide). It's an amazingly bald-faced copy of "E. T." even though this is "E. T." in a sticky wrapper, left under the heater two hours too long.
Almost everything in the earlier movie has a double here. There's another attenuated outer-space tyke wandering wide-eyed through suburbia, another fatherless home with a blond mom. There are two more young brothers, a feisty little girl, a dress-up scene, TV gags, a furious chase, mean-eyed government spies swooping and snooping around. . . . Did we miss anything? Is there anything of Spielberg's and Melissa Matheson's left unlooted?
If there is, producer-concept man R. J. Louis and writer-director Stewart Raffill, of the "Wilderness Family" series, can drag it out for the already-announced sequel.
Occasionally, the movie does try something new. There's a heart-tugging thudder of a climactic twist: a patriotic alternative to E. T.'s flight home. Even more peculiar is everyone's obsession with the McDonald's hamburger chain, apparent mecca of this slice of California suburbia.
They work there, they eat there. They gobble down burgers while Mac slurps up Cokes, which allegedly resemble the life-giving liquid of his dying planet, Iapedus. And when everyone drops in under the golden arches, they are greeted by dozens of bouncing, beaming break-dancers--and Ronald McDonald himself, hugging children.
The name of this new E. T. is Mac, but not, mercifully, "Little Mac," though, in keeping with the spirit of things, perhaps the rest of his own family should be called Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish and Small Fry. These four aliens--all mechanized puppets--look as if they've been left under the warmer too. They have Walter-Martha Keane eyes, herky-jerky moments, bee-stung mouths and the body consistency of flaccid taffy.
But perhaps we're too harsh. There are some nice things about "Mac and Me" (MPAA rated PG). Raffill's camera style is lively and mobile, the kid actors are cute: especially the hero (Jade Calegory), a charming, plucky and talented wheelchair-bound 11-year-old suffering from spina bifida. And if you begin to find your ticket a dubious investment, you can always console yourself that part of the profits go to charity: the Ronald McDonald Houses. Even so, you may prefer to give at the office and eat Italian.
'MAC AND ME'
An Orion pictures release. Producer R. J. Louis. Director Stewart Raffill. Script Raffill, Steve Feke. Music Alan Silvestri. Camera Nick McLean. Production design W. Stewart Campbell. Editor Tom Walls. With Christine Ebersole, Jade Calegory, Jonathan Ward, Katrina Caspary, Lauren Stanley.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
MPAA rating: PG (parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children).