Meet The Applegates
"Meet the Applegates," a wry commentary on bizarre secrets hidden by facades of normalcy, shows a family of four scaly Amazonian invertebrates outraged at the deforestation of their home. Disguised as an average American family, the Applegates -- father Dick (Begley), his wife Jane (Channing), kids Sally (Cooper) and Johnny (Jacoby), and their "pet" insect that takes a dog's shape -- try to fit into a nondescript Median, Ohio, neighborhood, as they plot terrorism and revenge. As did the pod people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," they want to replace society, one family at a time; only when everyone else is also an insect can their own charade end. Aunt Bea (Coleman) masterminds their mission.
But they all get emotionally involved, and their covers don't quite hold. Hired at the local nuclear plant, Dick has an affair with his secretary, Jane gets hooked on credit cards (hilariously lusting for a massage-lounger shown on a home-shopping TV ad), Johnny smokes weed with other boys, Sally gets pregnant, and Aunt Bea -- a male insect disguised as a human woman -- forgets to remove his mustache. The family has a chocolate bar for dinner instead of pot roast, then binges on garbage for dessert, and when they get too excited -- by drugs, sex, or food -- their beetle body parts burst through their human skin. Local people disappear because the Applegates capture humans who annoy them, and hoard them in cocoons in the basement. As the Applegates carry on, their next-door neighbor, an exterminator, grows suspicious.
Dick Applegate (Begley) is perfect as the too-average-guy-next-door; Jane Applegate (Channing as a perky blonde) is a sort-of Harriet Nelson with a hideous secret.
Ever since David Lynch inspired a dirty-secrets-of-suburbia trend with "Blue Velvet," mainstream filmmakers have depicted grotesque middle-class lifestyles; high school kids seem to intuit that their neighbors could be misfits in disguise. Lynch was probably trying to make the point that the 1950s' and 1960s' romantic comedies were, in fact, sad cries of despair.
Here, individualism seems under attack by sinister alien forces, and human behavior looks odd or funny when life forms that don't understand it mimic it, offering us objective reflections on human (or at least, American) conventions.
Redbeard Simmons and Michael Lehmann
Ed Begley, Jr., Stockard Channing, Dabney Coleman, Bobby Jacoby, Cami Cooper, Glenn Shadix
Rainforest destruction, environment terrorism, humor, family
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