By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Bugs turn into people.
Giant Brazilian Beetles take human form and disguise themselves as a typical suburban family. The father beetle Richard (Ed Begley Jr.) gets job at a nuclear plant, which he plans to use to destroy mankind and thus save their species and the rainforests from human progression.
This cultish-like comedy pretty much kills itself from the beginning by having a farfetched premise that it never bothers to explain. Just how do these giant beetles learn to take human form? Nothing is shown or mentioned. Even a really, really stupid explanation would be better than nothing at all.
The film does have a few good points, which allows you to stick with it despite the complete absurdity. One is the fact that it tackles the very serious issue of environmentalism. If anything it gets the general viewer a little more aware of the problem and by putting the bugs in human form makes them sensitive to their situation.
The film also has its witty moments as it analyzes the different habits of both bugs and humans. The best part may actually be a rather simple bit when the bug wife Jane (Stockard Channing) is not in the mood for sex so Richard grabs a science magazine with large pictures of insects and then ‘gets-off’ on it in the bathroom. There is also a side story dealing with the wife’s obsessive use of credit cards that is right-on-target.
Yet within all the offbeat humor there is also an amazingly high level of inconsistencies. These bugs seem to know a lot about certain technical gadgetry, but then not in other areas. They respond to some things in an odd creature-like way and then at other times like a regular person would. The scenes involving sexual relations between these bugs and other humans seem very unnatural and highly preposterous.
The acting runs hot and cold. Begley can be good in offbeat and nerdy roles, but as a family patriarch he just does not cut it. Robert Jayne as the son Johnny is terrible. He has a dazed expression on his face throughout like he was hit on the head a few times and acts like he was never in front of a camera before. On the plus side it’s nice to see Stockard back to doing comedy as she has a good knack for it. Dabney Coleman is fun even though he is pretty much wasted though seeing him dressed in drag and calling himself ‘Aunt Bea’ is genuinely funny.
Overall the film looks rushed and may have had studio tampering. The special effects are cheap and although some of it is passable most of the time it is downright deplorable. The ‘feel good’ ending is excruciating. Director Michael Lehmann seems to be another casualty to the dreaded sophomore jinx. Heathers, which was his first feature was a great success, but even though this film has its moments it cannot come together as a whole.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Alternate Title: The Applegates
Released: November 8, 1990
Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes
Director: Michael Lehmann
Studio: Triton Pictures
Available: VHS (as ‘The Applegates’)