[Scene: Peter and Bob
Farrelly and writer Marc Hyman are in a studio executive's office. On the
corner of the giant mahogany desk is a script entitled Blue
Heat: A Mash of Cop Movie Cliches.]
[Enter the executive,
fresh from his bath in a vat of goats' blood.]
FARRELLYS (in unison):
We're very sorry about OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE!
[The executive grunts
piggishly, starts coughing because he forgot to remove the cigar from his
mouth before doing so, and spits. The expectoration lands on the script.
The Farrellys' eyes gleam.]
FARRELLYS and HYMAN: But
we have a great idea!
And thus Osmosis Jones, the bastard child of the bodily fluids of Inner
Space and the plot of Lethal Weapon, was born.
Osmosis Jones opens fantastically and keeps up the pace for a good
forty-five minutes before falling into its own trap. In the first few minutes,
we watch Frank (Bill Murray in live action), an unshaven, haggard zoo worker
swallow an egg that he has stolen from a monkey. We follow the egg into his
mouth and are introduced to his animated cellular population, which includes
Osmosis Jones (voice by Chris Rock), a white blood cell. He's the loose cannon
of the FPD, the Frank Police Department. When we meet him, he is griping about
being forced into walking the mouth beat.
The virus Thrax (Laurence Fishburne) enters Frank's body through the egg and
starts wreaking havoc. Frank eventually takes a cold pill, Drixonol, who arrives
in the stomach as a plastic-coated, yellow and red straight-arrow Terminator-clone
voiced by David Hyde Pierce. Of course, Jones and Drix are partnered up and
-- ta-da -- we have the odd couple pairing required by every cop film.
It is in these opening scenes that the imagination of the film shines through.
Frank's body is envisioned as a teeming city. The hairs that line his throat
are the skyscrapers, the stomach is a train station in which inhabitants ride
out on peanuts and milk, and the cars ride on cilia instead of wheels. I love
drawn animation because it can create new worlds, like the internals of Frank's
body, that could not be satisfyingly realized by adding special effects and
CGI to live-action scenes (and yes, of course, they used computers to enhance
the animation in this movie, but the basic idea stands).
Rock and Pierce play to the types they are associated with in real life. Lawrence
Fishburne is surprisingly undistinguished -- in fact, if I hadn't known that
Thrax was voiced by him beforehand, I would have had to look it up. This is
not necessarily a bad thing (see Steve Buscemi in Final Fantasy for why
it can be very bad) but he doesn't really manage to sound as menacing or interesting
as he should.
Interspersed with the animated scenes are the live action scenes with Bill
Murray and his daughter Shane (Elena Franklin). Murray is funny as the grossly
unhealthy and haggard Frank. The bodily fluids thrown about in these scenes
are far more disgusting that their animated equivalents that we are immersed
in during the scenes with Jones and Drix.
After a while, the visual invention and humor of the movie is overshadowed
by the poor plot. Osmosis Jones was probably created with high hopes
of poking fun at the cop/buddy movie genre by putting it in a completely new
setting. Unfortunately, rather than satirizing the form, the filmmakers follow
the standards of the style without missing a beat. Everything's here -- the
past mistakes which haunt Jones, the relinquishing of the badge and gun, the
love interest who gets herself into peril, the corrupt mayor, and the stiff
cop learning to dance from the zany one. Of course, telling you all of this
won't spoil the film at all if you have seen even one cop movie. You could set
your watch to the timing of the plot points.
Plus, Murray's scenes devolve into a maudlin subplot about how Frank's daughter
is worried that Frank will die like his wife did. These scenes aren't pulled
off at all.
I believe the filmmakers were hoping the constant visual jokes ("Our
Founder" under a statue of a sperm, the Frank Online ISP with a logo a
la America Online's) would keep their audience entertained. However, if sight
gags were all that was needed to keep us engaged, my personal nemesis, Carrot
Top (a.k.a. Devourer of Souls), would be even more inexplicably famous than
he is now. And we wouldn't want that, would we?