Osmosis Jones

 
Robin Clifford 
Laura Clifford 
Frank (Bill Murray) is not what you'd call a health nut. His idea of haute cuisine is to smear a boiled egg with mayonnaise and load it with salt. When, after dropping said egg on the ground at the zoo where he works and, against his daughter Shane's (Elena Franklin) advice, he eats it, he doesn't realize the trouble he is in? He ingests a deadly virus and it's up to the denizens within Frank's body, led by a cocky white blood cell, to save him from himself in "Osmosis Jones."

Robin:
Peter and Bobby Farrelly enter a brave new world when they take us into the less-than-healthy body known to its inhabitants as the City of Frank. Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), an anti-body with an attitude, is a member of the Frank PD and is always getting into trouble with his boss, the Chief, for his renegade moves. When the deadly virus named Thorax (Laurence Fishburne) invades Frank's body, only Osmosis sees that their host is in great peril. That is, until he is joined by Drix (David Hyde Pierce), a twelve-hour time-release cold pill with germ-fighting power. It's up to this unlikely duo to search out the evil Thorax and eliminate him.

Watching "Osmosis Jones," I kept having a feeling of familiarity with the concept. What came to mind most strongly, at first, was the 1966 sci-fi flick "Fantastic Voyage." That F/X extravaganza took us inside the human body for the first time to show us what makes it tick. But, it didn't attempt to bring anthropomorphic life to the inner workings of the body. Then, it struck me - Woody Allen had just such a vignette in his ambitious 1972 comedy "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask)" where the inhabitants of a man's body work together to help him get laid. It was an amusing short that used actors (such as Burt Reynolds and Tony Randall) to give human faces to the various internal parts of the body.

The Farrelly brothers take the idea a quantum leap from short vignette to a feature length animation that is part cop show, part action flick and populated with police, crooks, corrupt government officials, laborers, white collar workers, villains and a sexy babe. They combine the live-action story about Frank, a widower that, when his wife died, lost nearly everything - his job, his life and, very nearly, his mind. He gave up caring about himself, eats junk food and doesn't exercise, much to the chagrin and concern of his daughter, Shane. When he invokes the "ten second rule" (if you drop something on the ground for less than ten second, it's edible) at the zoo he now works at, he unknowingly introduce the Red Death, Thrax, into his body. The killer virus, which has a string of victims under his belt, vows to finish the City of Frank off in less than 48 hours.

Thrax sets up shop with his henchmen in the festering in-grown toenail on Frank's foot and mercilessly plots to set a fever ablaze within their host and add Frank to his growing list of casualties. No one in the city, save Osmosis Jones, recognize the peril the city is in. With only the help of Drix and a sexy little red blood cell, Leah (Brandy Norwood), to depend on, Osmosis begins his own fantastic voyage as he hunts down the deadly virus to put a stop to his mayhem.

Utilizing the talents of Hollywood's top animators and CGI artists, the Farrellys have created a unique city within the man. Combining a hard-boiled detective story with animation fantasy is no easy task and the Farrellys are partially successful with their effort. It helps that Bill Murray is willing to get down, dirty and disgusting as the bedraggled Frank who wants to do the right thing for his daughter but is mired so deeply in his grief, he doesn't care what damage he inflicts on himself. The makers flash back and forth between Frank's self-abuse and the citizens of the city trying to cope with his bad habits.

The vocal talents that give life to the inhabitants of Frank are focused on Rock, the always-amusing Hyde Pierce, TV's "Moesha" star Brandy and, as the incumbent, corrupt mayor of the City of Frank, William Shatner. None, however, with the exception of Drix, do much in the way of creating memorable animated characters. The same goes for the limited live-action cast. Murray, as always, is one funny guy and gives "disgusting" new meaning. Wasted are Molly Shannon as Shane's teacher, Mrs. Boyd, and Chris Elliot as Frank's sidekick and coworker, Bob. Young Elena Franklin is fine as Frank's loving, caring daughter.

Animation is first rate, with a variety of settings in the human body. The lymph nodes are the headquarters for the ever-vigilant Frank PD where Osmosis is routinely told by his boss, the Chief, to "get out of my office!" in typical cop show fashion. The stomach is the terminus for all incoming nourishment while the cardiovascular system reps the highways that the citizens of Frank use to get around. It is all very clever and entertaining to watch, but like other aspects of the film, is not particularly memorable.

The gross-out equation that permeates much of the film is obviously geared to entertain the youngsters that "Osmosis Jones" is out to attract, and there is plenty to gross them (and you) out. The Farrellys, with Marc Hyman's original script, do inject some clever humor and visual cues that are made to entertain the adults who will, inevitably, attend the film with the kids. It's an ambitious animation effort, but lacks that certain charm to make it remarkable work. I give it a C+.

Laura:
Frank Detorri's (Bill Murray) a single dad who lives on beer and junk food with no apparent understanding of sanitation or hygiene, much to the dismay of his preteen daughter Shane (Elena Franklin).  When he uses the '10 second rule' to retrieve a hard boiled egg from a chimp's cage at the zoo and downs it, he introduces a lethal bacteria into his system.  Inside his skin, the City of Frank is in turmoil thanks to the vote-pandering of Mayor Phlegmming (voice of William Shatner), so it's up to one Frank PD white blood cell (voice of Chris Rock) to save the day in Peter and Bobby Farrelly's  "Osmosis Jones."

The City of Frank is a brightly animated (animation directed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito) cellular municipality where Osmosis Jones is a typical rogue cop looking for another chance.  He's inadvertently teamed up with Drix (voice of David Hyde Pierce, TV's "Frasier"), a cold capsule with 12 hours worth of painkillers to dispense.  This quarrelling duo are about to go on a "Fantastic Voyage" in order to hunt down Thrax (voice of Laurence Fishburne), the virus intent on shutting down Frank.

While the animation is certainly colorful to look at, Osmosis Jones' story is a hackneyed one.  The story cries out for puny puns, but we only get occasional sprinklings of wit or bodily humor (Drix graduated phi beta capsule, he departs on a bus headed for bladder).  Neither the hero or villain is particularly interesting (Thrax looks like an animated "Predator"), although Hyde Pierce is a delightful sidekick.  Adults can desperately keep their eyes peeled for small amusements the animators dot along the landscape.

Meanwhile, back in live action land, Bill Murray is reduced to nothing more than a walking gross-out joke.  There's no particular enjoyment to be found watching him vomit on Molly Shannon (she plays Shane's teacher, Mrs. Boyd) or hoisting his ingrown toenail onto a restaurant table.  One must wonder how the climatic flatlining of a child's father will play to the family audience as well.  Rest assured, the whole enchilada is wrapped up with a fart joke.

While far less offensive than the Farrelly's last effort "Me, Myself and Irene," that film at least spiked some comic highs with Jim Carrey's hi jinx.  "Osmosis Jones" will probably be OK for the kids, but the Farrellys playing for the family audience is like watching Marilyn Manson croon a Phil Collins tune.

C-

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