Screenplay : Marc Hyman
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Bill Murray (Frank Pepperidge), Elena Franklin (Shane), Molly Shannon (Mrs. Boyd), Chris Elliott (Bob)
Considering the obsessive attention they have paid to all the gooiest and grossest aspects of the human body in their others movies, it isn't surprising that Peter and Bobby Farrelly have finally directed a movie in which more than half of the action takes place within Billy Murray's guts.
Rendered in simple, but effective animation, the inside of Murray's body is portrayed as a complex urban landscape in which a police procedural takes place with various cells taking up the human roles of police officers (white blood cells), a turncoat police informants (a virus that was injected into the body as part of flu shot), low-rent gangsters (bacteria), and the dastardly criminal mastermind (a lethal virus). It's an inspired concept that leads to some really good gags, even if the movie as a whole doesn't have quite have the pace or gumption needed to really pull it off.
You see, believe it or not, this is kid-friendly, PG-rated Farrelly Brothers mayhem. Yes, there are fart jokes, urination jokes, snot jokes, armpit jokes, ingrown toenail jokes, zit jokes, vomit jokes, and rectal jokes--after all, the movie does take place inside a human body--but it's all done with a kind of genial restraint and desire not to outrage that is the exact opposite of everything else the Farrelly Brothers have done. Their sensibilities have always been attuned to those of little kids, so it was only a matter of time before they made a movie geared particularly for the under-10 crowd.
In the live-action portions of the film, Bill Murray stars as Frank Pepperidge, a well-meaning, but rather incompetent widowed father whose elementary-aged daughter, Shane (Elena Franklin), is always nagging him to take better care of his body. Murray doesn't do much in the movie except act slobbish and overweight, which is a waste of his subtle comic abilities, although he certainly gives the movie presence.
Inside Frank's body, though, is where all the action is taking place. A lethal virus called Thrax is introduced into his system after Frank eats a hard-boiled egg that has not only been inside a monkey's mouth, but has been on the floor inside its cage (he's an assistant zookeeper who holds fast to the 10-second rule: If it's been on the ground for less than 10 seconds, it's still eatable). Imagined as a sort of wickedly glaring demonic figure with Laurence Fishburne's voice at its lowest, rasping octaves, Thrax sets about wrecking havoc on Frank's insides.
The hero is the titular Osmosis Jones, a white blood cell voiced by Chris Rock as (big surprise here) a renegade cop who doesn't like to play by the rules. Partnered with a by-the-numbers active ingredient from a cold pill called Drix (wonderfully voiced by Frasier's David Hyde Pierce), Osmosis goes about tracking down Thrax even though all the other cellular residents of Frank, including the self-absorbed mayor (William Shatner) who is too worried about his re-election to care about anything else, think that it is just a common cold.
Most of the biggest laughs in Osmosis Jones are of the blink-and-you-miss them variety--it's all in the details. I loved the moment when the characters walk by a statue of a sperm with the large plaque reading "Our Founder," or the almost surreal sequence in which Thrax gets trapped inside Frank's warped subconscious ("This guy was sick long before I got here," he says once he gets out). First-time screenwriter David Hyman is particularly good at establishing all the minutiae of the fantastical inner workings of Frank's body and making them work as bizarre mirrors of our own world (the stomach is like a train depot, the brain is city hall, etc.). The animation is brightly colored, inventive, and fun, with elaborate cityscapes and highway systems traversing around major organs in a way that is all too believable once you get sucked into the movie's premise.
Yet, Osmosis Jones never quite takes off the way you're hoping it will. Because it relies so much on adapting its silly-gross scenario to a familiar buddy-cops formula, the ingenuity doesn't quite last. It's fun for most of its running length, even if it starts to bog down a bit toward the end, especially with the introduction of too much pathos regarding Frank's possible death and the rather unnerving idea of little Shane becoming an orphan. Still, it's a creative movie with more than a few solid belly laughs that also makes you think twice about what you put in your body.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick