Leap Of Faith – Meet The Applegates – tape 1794

First up on this tape, Leap of Faith. I only vaguely remember watching this when it came out.

Steve Martin is Jonas Nightingale, a rather sleazy preacher, on the road with his Miracles of Wonder tour.

We meet them driving through middle America, a little too fast. The local police stop them, and Martin takes over from driver Meat Loaf who has a pending DUI. The policeman looks set to arreset Martin, but he uses his skills at reading people to persuade the cop not to write the ticket. It’s an amusing scene that deftly sets up the characters.

There’s Martin, the charismatic preacher.

Steve Martin

Debra Winger is his second in command. She runs the information on the congregation that drives his ‘miracles.’

Debra Winger

They have to make an unscheduled stop-off in an out of the way town, suffering terribly from the recent closure of a factory, and the lack of rain. Liam Neeson is the local Sheriff, unhappy to grant a permit for Martin’s show, but who relents when Martin threatens to sue him for infringement of religious freedom.

Liam Neeson

I was amused by the scene where Winger and Martin were discussing the show for the town, and the radio was playing Meat Loaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Meat Loaf is the driver for the tour, and also their organist.

Meat Loaf

Martin takes to the waitress in the local diner, Lolita Davidovich. She isn’t impressed by him.

Lolita Davidovich

Her younger brother, Lukas Haas, was badly injured in a car accident that killed their parents, and he once went to a preacher who told him that because he couldn’t walk without a crutch his faith wasn’t strong enough.

Lukas Haas

Neeson really doesn’t like Martin, and knows he’s a con artist. At the second night’s show he interrupts, and tells the audience about Martin’s shady past or orphanage, petty crime and grifting. Some of the audience are disappointed, but Martin spins it into a rise from sin to grace.

Then, he manufactures his own miracle – painting the closed eyes of his Jesus figure to be open. The news attracts even more people to the next night’s show. Among the usual ‘healing’, Haas comes up on stage. Given their earlier conversation, Martin doesn’t want to help him, and when Haas persists, Martin says that everyone in the tent has to be a believer – including the cynical Neeson.

But, miraculously, Haas does walk, and Martin is thrown. After the show, he tells Winger he thinks he’s being hustled, since it’s absolutely unthinkable for a real miracle to have happened.

One of his team is a young Philip Seymour Hoffmann, who suggests they get Haas to work on the show.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Haas does indeed want to come and work for the show. Martin tries to dissuade him, telling him he’s a fake, but he still wants to come. Martin promises to pick him up in the morning, intending to disappoint him.

That night he leaves, and hitches a ride out of town, and as he leaves town, it suddenly starts raining, heavily.

It’s an odd ending, a sort of happy ending for some of the principals, although I imagine all the people working on the show might feel a little left out in the cold.

After this, another film, Meet The Applegates. The Applegates are a family of giant insects who have moved to a suburban American town because their jungle habitat has been deforested. Ed Begley is the father.

Ed Begley Jr

Stockard Channing is the mother.

Stockard Channing

Their mission is to blow up the local nuclear power plant so they’d be the only ones to survive. But as they spend more time among the humans, they all go a bit native. And they have to keep cocooning local people for various reasons as their perfect family rapidly descends into chaos as the integrate more and more with human ways.

The insect form of the Applegates does make you wonder quite how their human disguises actually work.

Meet the Applegates

Another part of their mission is Aunt Bea, played by Dabney Coleman, who spends far too long making his way from South America.

Dabney Coleman

Bea is shocked at how the Applegates have gone native, and coccoons them in their attic, leading the raid on the Nuclear plant humself. So the Applegates have to stop him to save their adopted town, leading to a rather confusing climax where the bugs fight other bugs and it’s hard to tell what’s happening.

The film was directed by Michael Lehmann, director of Heathers. It’s not bad, but doesn’t quite rise to the heights of something like The ‘Burbs.

After this, racording continues with the start of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. It has a surprisingly starry cast, from Deborah Harry and Christian Slater, to Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore.

Steve Buscemi

Debbie Harry is part of the framing device for the movie – she plays a woman who has a young boy locked in a cage in her house, intending to cook him, and he keeps her busy by reading stories from the Tales from the Darkside book.

Debbie Harry

The tape ends just after the first segment ends.

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2 comments

  1. I saw “Meet The Applegates” on video as “The Applegates” – with the final scene cut off for no apparent reason and credits redone for the video. That was very annoying (at least it showed up on TV properly a few years later).

    “The ‘Burbs” was a richly deserved flop when it came out, and I don’t understand it’s appeal in some circles.. but ot’s a lot better than the other movie in the post.

    1. The ‘Burbs would be better if they’d worked out a proper way to end it. Apparently they could never settle on a satisfying conclusion and it shows.

      Meet the Applegates is one of those comedies that sound weird when you try to explain what it was about and that it genuinely existed, but I have fond memories of it. Great ensemble cast who really committed to the material. And Ed Begley Jr is already committed to the environment, which makes it amusingly meta.

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