Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 77 mins .
M15+ . PAL
You’ve got to love cockroaches.
Oh rubbish, no you don’t – they’re hideous, oopy and icky little insect hoods, which is quite reason enough to despise them in itself; without factoring in their George Dubbya/nuclear proofing which gives them that old last thing standing post-holocaust nyahh-nyahh-nyahh-nyahh-nyahh vibe. Still, los walking, talking, singing and dancing cucharachas residing in Joe’s Apartment are actually quite cute – isn’t the power of movies wonderful?
Oh no, the cockroaches are revolting...
In fact, “cute” is a great way to succinctly sum up Joe’s Apartment without the usual wordy waffle we write in order to justify our meagre little reviewing stuff existences (not that acknowledging this will actually stop me, oh no, the power – the power - BWAHAHA! Ahem.) The whole thing is just plain cute. Normally yukky little bugs singing in voices possibly only gained from secret trysts between Smurfs and chipmunks Theodore, Simon and Alvin, choreography that would challenge Paula Abdul, a fish out of water tale, a saga of evil property development, a love story – it’s got the lot, gosh darn it!
Welcome to New York!
Our titular Joe is an Iowa boy who’s just bussed into the Big Apple to make his way up in the world. After a traditional New York welcome he sets about renting an abode, and as fate would have it he finds himself in the right place at the right time. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but hey, Joe’s not the least slovenly lad in the world so all is cool, especially with his co-tenants, 20, 30, possibly 40,000 cockroaches who like the way he runs things – so they decide to keep him. But then there’s the evil property developer angle, with hired goons intent on ridding the apartment of Joe and thus claiming the last land required for the erection of the biggest prison in the world, a pet project of one Senator Dougherty. Who just so happens to be the father of one Lily, the newly found apple of Joe’s eye, a bloom in a city of prickles who dreams of creating a community park in the midst of the East Village’s squalor. All seems to be going well with the old Joe/Lily interface, until he brings her home and his friends show their little heads. As Joe’s life turns to shit - figuratively and literally - he discovers the way back into her heart just may actually be through the stuff...
"We know where you live. We LIVE where you live!"
A match made in...
Sort of an extended, extended, extended version of a short possessing the same name made for MTV by John Payson (who wrote and directs here) in the early ‘90s, even though it’s pretty much as predictable and riddled with stereotypes in both characterisation and plot as they come, Joe’s Apartment is somehow still a wonder-filled joy to behold. Sure it may have real actors making up the majority – erm, actually the minority – of the cast, however essentially the whole thing’s a big old cartoon experience, and should be viewed that way for full effect. Speaking of such things, the animation of the computer and stop motion varieties is quite stunning at times, and giving the character to those little blighters they have could quite possibly leave anybody stopping and thinking before smooshing the next one they happen to encounter. Well, for a split second at least.
We’ve never been ones to hold back on the brickbats when Warner have inflicted inferior NTSC transfers on us in the past, so it’s only fair to give them bouquets when they get it right. And despite this being a super-budget title, they’ve really done Joe’s Apartment proud for our market. While Region 1 only received a full frame release, ours is a 16:9 enhanced, almost in its original ratio at 1.78:1 PAL affair, and it looks an absolute treat.
Quite alarmingly sharp and clear at times – every icky little hair on every icky little bug is there for the seeing, without bringing in any noticeable aliasing at all - the only letdowns – and they’re minor – are very rare (and tiny) speckles here and there, and the odd instance of grain in some time lapse photography. Otherwise, colour is just right, shadow detail does all it needs to and black levels are quite spot-on.
Despite only being of 1996 vintage, Joe’s Apartment was originally released with a boring old Dolby Digital stereo mix, and that’s what it gets on its trip to DVD. It does well with what’s on offer without ever turning the excitement factor up anywhere near overload levels (speaking of which, it’s all mastered quite quietly, so will need a decent ramping), delivering dialogue clearly – although some may have problems working out what the little buggy critters are saying at times. Stick it through Prologic and there’s a bit more in the way of aural thrills, but not a whole lot.
Careful, it's ruffled!
As a musical, albeit a genuinely offbeat one, naturally things involving collections of notes in melodic form are somewhat important here. No lesser light than Coen Brothers maestro of choice Carter Burwell was responsible for the super-funky little numbers and incidental stuff here, and it’s all bolstered by a quite typically MTV-inspired bunch of rock stuff, including such combos as Green Day, Boss Hog and Weezer spin-off The Rentals, plus Moby and even De la Soul doing the Funky Towel thang.
Damn, the exterminator got rid of them all.
OK, so if you’re severely cockroach-phobic no amount of cajoling in the world will get you within any sort of radius of checking out Joe’s Apartment, however anybody who has even a bit of a beat left in that inner child’s heart and likes a whimsical romance story with added squirm factor, one where everything turns out all golly-gee-shucks nice and all, just may find this an undiscovered treat. And it’s all been given superb treatment for a sub-$12 release – now hit it!
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "