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The Hollywood Reporter

24 April 2005



By Ray Richmond

Bottom line: Where's a good exterminator when we really need one?
9-11 p.m.
Sunday, April 24

Lucy Lawless and John HeardTo say that they play fast and loose with the science in CBS' "Locusts" is sort of like pointing out that Tony Soprano has a tendency to be a little nasty at times. It is very much a textbook laughable drama, populated by innumerable close-ups of slimy insects hellbent on eating human beings back to the Stone Age. If you've ever seen film of an actual locust swarm having at a crop field in Africa, you know that there's nothing funny about it. The insects descend in miles-wide swaths, literally blackening out the sky, landing and voraciously devouring everything in their path -- kind of like millions of little Donald Trumps. But the only thing the performers in "Locusts" devour is the scenery, and the story line is so utterly implausible and absurd that this disaster of a flick doesn't even succeed in creeping us out.

See, besides their outsized appetites, locusts are harmless to humans. They don't bite or attack. They're just a huge nuisance more than anything. You hit 'em and they fall and go splat. So scribe Doug Prochilo had to do something in his preposterous teleplay to make them truly frightening: have a scientist tinker with them in the lab until he creates a bioengineered Super Locust capable of breeding 10 times faster and impervious to conventional pesticides. Oh, and lots more aggressive too.

So anyway, when a couple of these buggers produced by the misguided bio guy (John Heard) escape after being ordered destroyed by his way-too-beautiful-for-her-job boss Maddy (Lucy Lawless, shucking her Xena getup to cavort with grasshoppers), things veer out of control rather quickly. The locusts reproduce into the zillions seemingly within days, even hours. And they're targeting our food supply. They invade citrus festivals, dive-bomb high-rises and travel in swarms covering thousands of square miles.

It's curtains for mankind, all right. And in a plot development that couldn't possibly make less sense, the military gets involved to put a stop to this madness and decides, since nothing else can kill them, to turn to VX nerve gas -- a Saddam Hussein-endorsed poison that the "experts" acknowledge will kill up to 10% of the U.S. population right along with the locusts. But hey, what's 27 million lives when a bunch of wheat is at stake? Fortunately, Maddy is right on top of this and sees it as something less than a perfect solution. One phone call to TV news scotches it. It's just like real life, only in an alternate universe.

As all of this Apocalypse stuff is going down, Maddy and her dour, improbably handsome husband Dan (Dylan Neal) separate because she's too married to her job and he wants to start a family. So then she discovers she's pregnant and is resigned to fight morning sickness along with a biblical-scale crisis, and director David Jackson treats us to shot after shot of insects diving and buzzing and wreaking havoc replete with plenty of cheesy effects (one of them named Mike Farrell, playing a hapless farmer).

You know it's time to turn the channel when the locusts turn carnivorous and take to munching on human skin. Don't you just hate it when we become the other white meat? The truth is, a far more frightening film could have been made about shoppers attempting to brave the Trader Joe's parking lot any weekday at about 5:30. No locust would stand a chance.

von Zernick-Sertner Films

Executive producers: Frank von Zerneck, Robert M. Sertner, Jill Tanner
Co-executive producer: Malcolm Petal
Producers: Christopher Morgan, Randy Sutter
Co-producer: Peter Sadowski
Director: David Jackson
Teleplay: Doug Prochilo
Director of photography: Derick Underschultz
Production designer: Chester Kaczenski
Costume designer: Peggy Stamper
Visual effects supervisor: Craig Weiss
Editor: Louis Cioffi
Music: Joseph LoDuca
Casting: Susan Glicksman


Maddy: Lucy Lawless
Peter: John Heard
Dan: Dylan Neal
General Williams: Gregalan Williams
Lyle: Mike Farrell
Lorelai: Natalija Nogulich
Secretary Morales: Mike Gomez
Vivian: Esperanza Catubig
Wyatt Reynolds: Sam Temeles
Director Rusk: Mark Costello
Senator Clauson: Margaret Lawhob
Terry Axelrod: Caroline McKinley