Rated PG - Running Time: 1:38 - Released 8/10/01

Osmosis Jones, the PG-rated cartoon/live-action hybrid about the exploits of a hard-working white blood cell within the human body, marks the kid-movie debut for well-known sleaze merchants Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the writing/directing/producing team behind such classics of the grossout genre as Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene. This time trusting the writing duties to newcomer Marc Hyman, the brothers F. don't fail their well-established reputation for disgusting humor, forcing Bill Murray to perform just about every bodily function known to man with graphic, up-close scrutiny. However, since the live-action portions of the film (those which feature Murray as the omnidirectionally self-abused Frank Pepperidge) serve as a literal vehicle for the cartoon story going on inside his unkempt and unhealthy body, the physiological antics are, I suppose, arguably justified.

This inner saga, which is, if you'll excuse the expression, the "meat" of the film, features colorful if occasionally queasy animation depicting the hustle and bustle of Frank's internal functions, with the body presented as a big city in which all the different organs and/or body parts serve as the various neighborhoods or establishments, each inhabited by a number of cellular characters. Featuring the voices of Chris Rock, David Hyde Pierce, Laurence Fishburne, and William Shatner, it is fast-paced and clever, and Hyman's script full of amusing body-related puns, and as long as you can get past the sheer disgust of some of the subject matter, it presents an enjoyable diversion.

As we learn in the first few minutes of the live-action story, Frank does not take very good care of himself, inside or out. A single father laboring as a zoo custodian, he is ridiculed by everyone except his fresh-faced pre-teen daughter Shane (Elena Franklin) and his brother and co-worker Bob (Chris Elliott), whose own personal hygiene is no less dubious. But Frank's disrespect for his body comes back to haunt him when the ingestion of a questionable hard-boiled egg results in the appearance of Thrax (Fishburne), a nasty bacterial villain who plans to relieve Frank of his corporeal dominion in record time. Although Mayor Phlegmming (Shatner), whose office is located in the cerebral cortex, underestimates the gravity of the situation and orders a "Drixenol" cold pill (Pierce) to take care of Frank's symptoms, germ fighter Osmosis Jones (Rock) senses the presence of an illness more dangerous than anyone else realizes. Although "Drix" and Jones don't get along at first, they soon realize they must work together to save their host.

While the live-action parts of this film, which feature Molly Shannon as the horrified recipient of most of Frank's disgusting shenanigans, are consistently foul on almost all levels and represent an unfortunate comment on the present condition of Bill Murray's career, the cartoon bits are quite a bit of fun. The background jokes are often more engaging, at least for adults, than the main story (I enjoyed the appearance of signs posted in Frank's body saying things like, "PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAR!" or "No Cilia/No Cytoplasm/No Service"), but Rock and Pierce offer abundant energy to their characterizations and Hyman's story is a fun take on the internal dynamics of the human bod. I'd advise attendees of this film to go on an empty stomach, but if you're willing to endure the Farrellys' warped sense of humor and Murray's scratching, squirting, gas-passing antics, Osmosis Jones offers some lighthearted fun. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail