Funny -- and educational
Review: 'Osmosis Jones' pleases, inside and out
By Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- Thousands of underage kids undoubtedly badgered their parents to take them -- or snuck into -- "There's Something About Mary" (1998), rated R, and "Dumb and Dumber" (1994), rated PG-13, helping to make those lowbrow films into highly profitable hits. Now, with "Osmosis Jones," devious adolescents, starving for toilet humor, have a Peter and Bobby Farrelly movie with a tame (for them) rating of PG. However, never fear. "Osmosis Jones" is pure Farrelly, still pushing the envelope of gross-out humor -- albeit to a tamer level.
To use the name Farrelly in the same sentence as the words irreverent or demented is more or less redundant. These poster boys for arrested adolescent behavior never met a fart joke they didn't embrace with glee. Bodily gases and fluids are their stock in trade. That noble tradition continues with "Osmosis Jones."
The film is a combination of live action and animation and stars Bill Murray, Molly Shannon, and Chris Elliott in the live portions and the voices of Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne and David Hyde Pierce in the animated parts. The live action takes place outside the body of Murray's character, Frank Detorri. The animation -- complete with the aforementioned gases and fluids -- occurs inside Frank's body.
Frank is unshaven, overweight and under-sanitized -- a monument to bad hygiene and a junk food addict who's a walking health disaster. In other words, he's a perfect role for Murray.
Another fantastic voyage
Frank, a single father to his daughter Shane (Elena Franklin), works at a local zoo along with another loser in life's lottery, his best buddy Bob (Elliott). After ingesting a hard-boiled egg he wrestles out of the mouth of a chimpanzee, Frank is infected with a killer virus, Thrax, voiced by Laurence Fishburne.
The story flashes back and forth between the animated characters and the live-action footage. As Frank tries to carry on his life while getting sicker and sicker, the animation goes within Frank's body to show his immune system fighting back. Chief among the body's defenders is a white-blood cell named Osmosis Jones (Rock). Battling at his side is a 12-hour cold pill, Drix (Pierce).
The inside of Frank's body is an amazing universe. It's an organic living metropolis with an entire society of characters. There are cops, crooks, and deadbeat government officials, including the pompous Mayor Phlemming (William Shatner). There's also a sassy, sexy red-blood cell, Leah (Brandy Norwood), who catches Jones' fancy.
Together Jones, Leah and Drix fight their way through stomach acid, bacterial battlegrounds, mucus mud slides and hurricane-force sneezes as they attempt to save Frank from the evil Thrax.
Wonderful sense of the absurd
This one-of-a-kind original premise plays like a cop buddy movie with Jones and Drix swooping through Frank's bloodstream like a biological Tango and Cash (this time intentionally cartoony), hot on the heels of the dastardly villain.
Novice screenwriter Marc Hyman shows great promise and a wonderful sense of the absurd. He contributed to "Dr. Dolittle 2," the upcoming "Bubble Boy" and "Rock Star," but this is his first produced original script. Hyman is well on his way and reportedly has a script in development for Jim Carrey.
The Farrellys directed the live-action sequences with the same straightforward approach they've used in their previous efforts. The comedic timing is perfection, combined with the relaxed style that is one of their trademarks.
The animation portion of the film was wisely handed over to animation veteran Tom Sito. His credits include "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988), "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Antz" (1998), and "Dinosaurs" (2000), just to name a few. Serving as his co-director is Piet Kroon, who worked as an animator on "An American Tale II: Fievel Goes West" (1991) and "Quest for Camelot" (1998). Their designs and concepts are remarkable. They bring a huge scale to a microcosmic world.
Rock continues to be a master of improvisation. Reportedly he had free reign to embellish his dialogue whenever it hit his fancy, a perk he also enjoyed while doing voice-over duty with Eddie Murphy in the first "Dr. Dolittle" (1998). In live-action films Rock appears stiff at best, but his voice-over work always shines.
"Osmosis Jones" is sort of a multimillion-dollar health science film on acid. In a very basic way -- and using plenty of creative license -- it does explain in broad terms how the body fights disease.
Still, if you're really sick, you might want more than Rock and Drix on your side. It might also be wise to practice better personal hygiene than Murray's character Frank. But they all make a fine comedy.
"Osmosis Jones" opens nationwide on Friday, and is rated PG.
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