August 09, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Far hipper and wittier than any other broad, high-concept comedy out this summer, and the biggest image boost for cockroaches since the 1920s newspaper-column bug-and-cat raconteurs archy and mehitabel. Writer-director John Payson expands on his inventive, high-spirited 1992 MTV short film of the same name with the continuing story of Joe’s Apartment (Jerry O’Connell from TV’s Sliders), an eager new immigrant from Iowa who finds that Holy Grail of a thing — a cheap New York City apartment — at a price: He inherits 50,000 buggy roommates. The ostensible plot involves questionable landlord-tenant relations and Joe’s crush on a sweet young woman (Megan Ward from TV’s Party of Five). The real draw, though, is the antics of the cleverly wrangled and animated roaches, who yak at Joe, dance, and sing with such verve and talent, I’d rather spend time with them than with a couple of high-priced comics in comb-over wigs any day. But not in my apartment. B+

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