Joe's Apartment (1996)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/19/12
Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Megan Ward, Robert Vaughn, Don Ho

Wow. MTV's first feature film is about a loser named Joe (Jerry O'Connell) who moves to New York City and ends up living in a roach infested apartment. But these aren't just any roaches. These roaches can talk, sing, and dance, and they take a liking to Joe and his lack of hygiene. Unfortunately, the feeling isn't mutual, and while Joe tolerates his insect buddies, they constantly get him into trouble. Adding more trouble to the mix is a somewhat villainous senator (an aged Robert Vaughn with a fetish for women's clothes) who wants to demolish Joe's apartment building and build a maximum security prison on the block. However, his sweet and perky daughter, Lily (Megan Ward), has other plans. She wants to build a community garden on the lot to combat the surrounding urban decay, and her unspoiled beauty captures Joe's unkempt heart. As luck would have it, just as their romance is starting to bloom, the cockroaches make a mess of everything. But in the end, justice is served and the roaches manage to make everything right.

This is a great artifact of 90's campiness and the wacky pop culture sensibilities of the MTV generation. While it dishes out some of the most disgusting things you'll ever see, it does it in such a fun and innocent way that you can't help but find it endearing. The presentation and tone reminded me a lot of films like "Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark" (1988), "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (1985), "Better Off Dead" (1985), "UHF" (1989), and even Peter Jackson's "Braindead" (1992). The real allure is the computer animated cockroaches, and they are absolutely fascinating (and disgusting) to watch. The animation and choreography are superb, and the musical numbers are positively mind-blowing. Highly imaginative and truly fantastic work.