Weird and Wonderful: Wacky Sci-Fi Grab Bag

For this week’s installment I decided that rather than writing about only one film, I’d write about three films: Mac and Me, Earth Girls Are Easy, and Stay Tuned. These three weren’t well-received by critics, but they hold a special place in my heart as goofy cult classics. Although they aren’t necessarily “good”, each of these sci-fi comedies is far more entertaining than their ratings would have you believe. Grab some popcorn, candy, and your favorite beverage, and settle in for a silly triple feature.

Mac and Me (1988):

This is one of those rare films that is just so bad it’s good. The titular alien, MAC (Mysterious Alien Creature) just wants to return to his family, but instead he ends up at the home of young Eric Cruise (Jade Calegory). Eric must then convince his friends and family to help guide MAC home. Sound familiar? It should, because Mac and Me is essentially an E.T. rip-off funded by product placement. The film was pitched by producer R.J. Louis — who had connections to fast food giant McDonald’s through advertising work and Ronald McDonald House charities — as a promotion for McDonald’s. One of the highlights of this wholesome alien advertisement is a dance sequence at McDonald’s, featuring Ronald McDonald himself (and an uncredited young Jennifer Aniston in her very first role). The additions of life-saving Coca Cola, a trip to the mall, and a pink Cadillac in the final scene couldn’t be a more cheesy love letter to American consumers. 

I love this film so much because the more I learn about it, the more I wonder how it ever got made. The sheer ridiculousness of Mac and Me is what kept me glued to the screen. Come on, a film funded by McDonald’s in which the main character’s name is MAC? How could you not giggle the whole way through?

Earth Girls Are Easy (1989):

Ever wanted to see Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans transform from fuzzy aliens to 80’s California hunks? Here’s your chance. In Earth Girls Are Easy, L.A. manicurist Valerie (Geena Davis) kicks out her rude fiancé only to discover aliens have crash landed in her pool. After a classic makeover sequence, Valerie, her friend Candy, and the aliens hit the town and learn all about 80’s pop culture and what it means to be human. Along the way, the cast breaks out into multiple musical numbers and dance sequences. In 2001 Earth Girls Are Easy was set to be adapted into a stage musical, and if it hadn’t flopped I firmly believe it would have been an instant classic.

This film gave me such warm feelings because it exudes a carefree atmosphere. The premise was so strange and charming that the film didn’t feel its hour and forty minute run time at all. It has all the kitschiness of a more popular 80’s rom-com, but the extraterrestrial twist gives the film the bonus weird factor that it needs to be permanently burned into my brain. 

Stay Tuned (1992):

Don’t sit too close to the television for this one, kids. Stay Tuned stars John Ritter as Roy, a television-obsessed couch potato who accepts a mysterious offer for a new state of the art satellite dish. He and his wife, Helen (Pam Dawber), are sucked into “Hellevision”, a gruesome game show in which the contestants must survive for 24 hours. If not, their souls are stuck in Hellevision forever, and it’s up to their kids Darryl (David Tom) and Diane (Heather McComb) to save them. This film parodies over twenty television shows and films in delightfully devilish ways — one of my personal favorites being “Duane’s Underworld”. As they journey through these parodies, the whole family learns what is truly important: each other. 

Stay Tuned is one of the most amusing satires of media consumption I’ve ever seen. Even if younger audiences might not understand every reference, it’s still well worth the watch. The idea that even Hell itself has had to adapt to technological advancement is comedic gold, and the actors absolutely nail every gag. In the age of Netflix binging and rising screen time, Stay Tuned is just as relevant, and just as goofy.

No matter which one of these films you choose for a lighthearted movie night, you’re bound to have a good time. Who cares what the critics say? Sit back, relax, and revel in the cheesiness.

Harper Klotz

Harper Klotz is a Junior studying English and Communications. Their column "Weird and Wonderful" is an opportunity to share the strange, unknown, and just-plain-goofy art they love with others. Music, film, theatre, and literature are their main interests, but wherever there's something wacky, they'll be there to see it.

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