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Osmosis Jones

Easily one of the more endearing movies Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been involved with (especially compared to the pointless Farrelly-produced dud Say It Isn't So), Osmosis Jones is much better than its dismal box-office performance would have you believe. In its animated portions, the saga of the germ-fighting white blood cell (voiced enthusiastically by Chris Rock) is a vibrant, imaginative buddy-picture that makes the most of its Technicolor-wonderland settings. Jones, you see, is an ambitious young cop in "Downtown Frank," a bustling city of trillions nestled inside the flabby, flaccid body of a slothful zookeeper played by Bill Murray. To the consternation of his pre-teen daughter Shane (Elena Franklin), the widowed Frank has about as many healthy habits as a pre-Subway Diet Jared; Frank will eat anything, including a hard-boiled egg that rolls around the bottom of a monkey cage ("ten-second rule!" he claims before popping it in). Unfortunately for Frank, said egg is responsible for releasing nasty (and pre-9/11-named) virus Thrax (Laurence Fishburne) into his system. It's up to Jones and his law-abiding, straight-laced cold-pill partner Drix (David Hyde Pierce) to prevent Thrax from succeeding in his goal: Take out Frank in a record 48 hours so he can make the medical books. What follows is a funny, action-packed chase through Frank's body — although, ironically enough, the movie, two-thirds of which takes place inside a person, has less gross-out bodily humor than most of the Farrellys' other films. Most of Osmosis Jones' body-related jokes are saved for more subtle asides (signs in the background say things like "Peace in the Middle Ear!") and witty juxtapositions (germ mafiosos hang out in seedy armpit sweat glands) — although there is some lowbrow zit- and vomit-related humor in the live action portions. Those segments benefit from Murray's casting; if anyone can make a throwaway fart gag funny, he can. On the "inside Frank" side, Rock, Fishburne, and Hyde Pierce — all quite able in their voice-over roles — are joined by William Shatner as Frank's corrupt Mayor Phlegmming and Brandy Norwood as his exasperated assistant Leah. Osmosis Jones could do with a few more out-and-out belly laughs (no pun intended), but as a fun, fanciful escape — and lesson in the importance of good hygeine — it is, as the tag line claims, "one cell of a movie." Warner Brothers has put together a nice DVD, too. The animated world's colors pop in the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clear (other options include French 5.1, Spanish 2.0, and English and French subtitles). The pun-happy menus lead to an extras roster that includes a full-length audio commentary with animation directors Piet Kroon and Tom Sito, writer Marc Hyman, and producer Zak Penn; the interactive "Choose a Foul Scene" screen (which offers shortcuts to some of the film's grosser moments); a six-minute deleted-scenes reel (there's no way to access them individually); two featurettes (one focusing on the voice-over process, the other a standard HBO "First Look" spot); the trailer; and a bonus CD sampler with songs from Sugar Ray, Willa Ford, and P.O.D. Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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