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The Morning Call

24 April 2005

CBS unveils a night of the 'Locusts'

By Kevin McDonough
United Feature Syndicate

NEW YORK | As anyone who's ever seen the 1958 version of ''The Fly'' can attest, some times scientists go ''too far'' and ''tamper with the forces of nature'' with hideous and painful results. That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of the 2005 TV-movie shocker ''Locusts'' (CBS 2,3 and 22 at 9, TV-PG, V).

Lucy Lawless (''Xena'') stars as Maddy Rierdon, an expert on voracious insects and Undersecretary of Agriculture. Her know-how gets a workout when a mad scientist played by John Heard (''The Sopranos'') engineers a hybrid breed of super locusts resistant to all known insecticides. Maddy tries to eliminate the mutant swarm, but some escape to breed and feed another day. Soon, America's heartland breadbasket becomes a possible snack for dark clouds of hungry critter super-freaks. What's an Undersecretary of Agriculture to do?

''Locusts'' is crawling with special effects. Apparently, they spent so much on scenes of hungry insects that they forgot to buy a credible script. In an opening scene, Lawless is seen in a bra. She angrily puts on a sweater and snaps at her husband (Dylan Neal), ''Dan, we both knew what it meant when I accepted the position as Undersecretary of Agriculture!'' With dialogue like that, ''Locusts'' offers viewers a hideous hybrid of monster movie and soap opera.

Mike Farrell (''M*A*S*H'') plays Maddy's pappy, a simple farmer often seen riding a tractor and wearing overalls. Maddy spends most of the movie in low-cut blouses revealing the figure that made ''Xena'' a warrior princess to remember. But it begs the question: Doesn't the Department of Agriculture have a dress code?