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"Joe's' has roaches, but too little else

If only Joe had gone to a grocery store instead of ordering out for pizza, he could have purchased a really big can of Raid.

But since he doesn't get out much, Joe (Jerry O'Connell) gets attached to the rowdy roaches living in his New York flat. He doesn't try to nuke them until he knows them by name, and by then it's too late: They're more like pets.

The deal with a movie like Joe's Apartment is not to expect too much from it, and then you'll be pleased when some of it entertains you. The original Joe's Apartment was a short film shown on MTV. What we see now is the same MTV-mentality feature, just longer.

The cartoon-style acting and Home Alone-type violence displayed by the humans in the movie only make the supporting actors _ the roaches _ look really good.

The movie's premise is simple: Young man moves to New York, lives in a roach-infested apartment, falls in love with a girl and tries to win her heart.

O'Connell (a child actor in Stand by Me and more recently on Fox's TV series Sliders) comes off as an MTV Everyman in his poster-decorated roach pad. He's got plenty of rock group T-shirts and caps to make any music fan proud but doesn't have enough sense to hire Orkin for his roach problem.

Joe's troubles stem from the interference of his roach pals and an imminent eviction coming from his landlord (played by Hawaiian singer Don Ho in his feature-film debut). His attempts to woo Lily (Megan Ward, Encino Man) are foiled when hundreds of roaches fall from a light fixture onto the couple as they kiss on the couch.

The roaches, who have plenty of advice about sex and even go as far as to put a condom into Joe's pocket, are only trying to assist their buddy in his quest for romance. We should all have roaches as kind and caring.

They're a talented bunch, these roaches. When Joe questions their ability to speak, "Talk? We can sing!" is their response. And in their cartoon chipmunk voices, they belt out several show-stopper tunes.

A good idea would have been to ditch the full-length feature concept and put out the roaches' Sewer Surfing number as an MTV video.

In addition to the 2,500 live roaches used in the movie, stop-motion, radio-controlled and computer-animated roaches were created to do what the real ones could not. Stunts like line dancing and synchronized swimming were best left to the fake insects.

MOVIE REVIEW

Joe's Apartment

Grade: C-

Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Megan Ward, Robert Vaughn

Rated: PG-13, profanity, violence, sexual references

Running time: 80 minutes

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