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The Boston Globe

24 April 2005

In laughable 'Locusts,' the absurdity flies

By Suzanne C. Ryan, Globe Staff | April 24, 2005

Tonight's CBS movie ''Locusts" is a hokey disaster drama that is so poorly produced it's actually laugh-out-loud funny.

If you can hear the buzz, it's too late: That's the network's corny tagline for the movie. But if you're reading this review, it's not too late to do something else with your time, unless you enjoy watching bugs crawl all over people. Lots of bugs.

The film centers on bio-engineered locusts that can fly 300 miles a day, reproduce 10 times faster than normal and, conceivably, devour the entire country. These locusts are so mean, they'll eat animals and even people if they don't get enough veggies.

Oh, and the bugs are resistant to pesticides.

Lucky for America, Lucy Lawless (''Xena: Warrior Princess") is on hand to save the day. She stars as the sexiest undersecretary of agriculture you'll ever see. We meet her early in the film, in her bra and panties.

She and hubby Dan (Dylan Neal) aren't getting along -- all she wants to do is work. Good thing, too, because she soon discovers a mad scientist (John Heard) who's created the ultimate bioweapon, the locust.

She orders his swarms destroyed, but there wouldn't be a movie if a handful didn't escape the laboratory. And boy, can they reproduce. In just days, there are two giant swarms attacking both coasts. Lawless's character is afraid they'll meet in the country's heartland for the ultimate all-you-can-eat buffet.

Like a lot of horror films, this one is predictable. There are connect-the-dot scenes, such as the one at a campground where a young couple is in a tent making out. Stop tickling me, the woman says. What? the man replies. Then locusts pop out of the ground, crawling all over them. Gross.

My favorite scene is when the locusts attack an office building, totally spoiling a surprise birthday party. They bust through the window as the office workers stand agape. They eat the birthday cake. They even crawl through the fax machine. I guess they want to send word to the West Coast swarm.

At first, the fluttering 2-inch long insects are compelling as villains. It's hard not to turn your head and cover your mouth (I did it a lot). But after about 30 minutes, you get used to them.

After that, the script becomes the enemy. It's hard not to yell at the screen as the characters do dumb things like risking their lives to save a cow. One homeland security expert convinces the team to drop nerve gas on the state of Indiana. Shouldn't the president get involved at this point?

In the end, the locusts aren't scary at all. It's the filmmakers, and CBS, that I worry about.