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‘Joe’s Apartment’ (Blu-ray review)

 

Like any decade, movies from the 1990s were, in hindsight, distinctly connected to their time, and something that had a substantial impact on how a lot of films were made was the MTV aesthetic.

Loud, fast and in-your-face was the style utilized back when the channel was still overwhelmingly focused on music, and Joe’s Apartment showcases exactly how MTV aesthetic transfers to film in this first MTV Films production.

Originally released in 1996, the film tells the tale of the young Iowa native Joe (Jerry O’Connell) trying to make it New York City.

As is often the case when a country kid meets the Big Apple, Joe keeps getting knocked down.

However, thanks to his unbreakable can-do attitude, the young man refuses to give up his hunt for an affordable apartment.

Still a well-known conundrum to renters today, finding an apartment in a metropolis is no simple feat, and a series of random events eventually lead Joe to become the occupier of the last rent-controlled apartment in a building developers are eager to knock down in favor of building a prison.

Dilapidated as it is, Joe is nonetheless thrilled with his new place, but he is understandably startled when he finds out he has roommates.

About 20-30,000 of them.

All of them talking, singing, and rather randy cockroaches.

Hijinks ensue as the dodgy landlords try to evict Joe, who is trying to win the love of the bubbly Lily (Megan Ward) and find his footing in New York, and it turns out the roaches have a significant role to play in every part of this black comedy.

Revisiting something so distinctly defined by the decade during which it was created can be a mixed experience, and it is abundantly clear that Joe’s Apartment is a product of its time.

Thankfully, that is not a bad thing here.

The story is simple and silly with over-the-top acting performances and cartoonish scenarios, but since it is approached with such heart and humor, it is difficult to not find the film quite charming in all its ridiculousness.

The themes of gentrification, lousy landlords and the negative impact late stage capitalism has on the average person are, sadly, more relevant than ever, but the fact that these heavy themes are approached with such sly sardonicism still makes the film an enjoyable satire nearly three decades on from its original release.

Sticking to a brisk runtime of 77 minutes, the film does not outstay its welcome, something which is very welcome with something this ludicrous, just as it does not leave the film any time to become too pretentious about its themes or premise.

Extras include three restored Looney Tunes shorts and trailer.

Joe’s Apartment is wacky and dumb in the best way, and while wearing nostalgia goggles often means films of yesteryear are looked at more fondly than they deserve, it remains clear that this film had points to make that are still relevant today, and the fact that musical cockroaches were an integral part of making these points just makes the movie that much more delightful.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.

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