We gave it a D
Is there anything left to parody about suburbia? The surreal, consumerist blandness of American middle-class life has been satirical fodder for years now, dating back to the high-camp ’70s soaper Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. When this sort of thing is done with love (Edward Scissorhands) or gleeful venom (John Waters’ 1981 Polyester), the results can be funny and bracing. But Meet the Applegates is the sort of strenuously plastic isn’t-America-a-really-dumb-place? send-up that tries my patience after about five minutes. Directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers), it stars that one-note comedian Ed Begley Jr. as the father in a family of giant, mantis-like insects who leave their home in the Amazon disguised as humans and attempt to undermine the destruction of their sacred terrain. (Yes, folks, it’s a save-the-rain-forests movie!) Ensconced in suburbia, they become the Applegates, an unwitting parody of a ”normal” American family, complete with delinquent kids, terrible diets, and Dad fooling around with his secretary at the office. There’s also a special-effects hook: When one of the Applegates gets teed off, he can revert to his original insect self and stun the offending party into unconsciousness, trapping him in a giant cocoon. Soon, the house is filling up with mummified victims. The insect effects aren’t bad, but the movie, which is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers remade as a shrill sitcom, is every bit as synthetic as the clichés it’s savaging. Meet the Applegates plays like one of those Saturday Night Live sketches they reserve for the last 20 minutes of the show — the ones where even the cast members seem bored by what they’re doing.