The producing team responsible for “Spring Break: Shark Attack” and “Category 6: Day of Destruction” brings CBS a colon-free threat of biblical proportions that, remarkably, manages to eclipse its predecessors in terms of sheer silliness. Just as the movie’s genetically engineered locusts are immune to pesticides, anything this cheesy is surely resistant to critical barbs. Yet taken in the spirit of spoofing ’50s disaster yarns, “Locusts” might be funnier than most of the network’s comedies, but it’s not quite bad enough to generate real buzz.
Lucy Lawless leads the charge against the winged swarm as Xena the “Voracious Insect Expert,” which has to look really cool on a business card. As Maddy Rierdon, Lawless discovers that one of her scientist colleagues (an amusing John Heard, apparently modeled after Leo G. Carroll in “Tarantula”) has bred extra-big, superfast, really hungry locusts that reproduce much faster than ordinary bugs. Although she fires him, it’s not before the locusts — commissioned, of course, by the military as a bio weapon — escape the lab and wreak havoc on both coasts, eating their way toward the heartland.
“You screw with nature, and nature will screw with you,” Maddy warns, one of many lines of dialogue that would fit nicely on a bumper sticker.
Because computer-generated locusts can be expensive, there’s also a B plot involving Maddy’s strained relationship with her husband (Dylan Neal), who’s picked a bad time to leave her, since that home pregnancy test has come back “pregnant” (I actually thought they become blue, but whatever).
The biggest challenge, drama-wise, is that the locusts are destructive but not terribly dangerous — at least, until they belatedly turn carnivorous, which isn’t nearly as gruesome as it could (and probably should) be. There’s also no obvious way to stop them, as pressure rises on Maddy to concoct one before the military — presented here as more dumb than evil — executes a plan to douse the swarm in VX nerve gas, which would kill bugs dead but eradicate millions of people in the process.
Chased into this corner, the final payoff is particularly inane, though director David Jackson pitches the whole exercise so over the top as to mostly evoke giggles, which are unfortunately accompanied by plenty of yawns. At least “Spring Break” provided cheesecake imagery during its arid stretches; the locusts foolishly limit their rampage to harassing the fully clothed.
Granted, not everything can be the Hallmark Hall of Fame, but having indulged in these B-movie detours, CBS should be cautious before returning to further adventures in “Bad Disaster Cinema,” in case viewers fill up on junk food a little faster than bugs do.