a critiQal film review Osmosis Jones (2001)

  • DVD

Plot: Inside the body of Frank (Murray), there lives an entire city consisting of the body parts that make Frank work. A white blood cell cop named Osmosis Jones (Rock) teams up with by-the-book rookie cold tablet Drix (Pierce) to destroy the mysterious, evil virus Thrax (Fishburne) that has invaded the City of Frank.

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Once again, NetFlix® has caused us to stumble over a film we had completely forgotten about. This time, that film is Osmosis Jones, the part live-action but mostly animated comedy that came out almost a decade ago. Recalling some positive memories of the film, we naturally just had to take another look. But, would our fond memories of this film be tainted by another viewing, or is Osmosis Jones as fun as we remember?

Chris Rock is at his animated best in Osmosis Jones. Taking center stage as a, yes, white blood cell (irony anyone?), Chris leaps into action just as quickly as his character, and leads the viewer on a merry chase through the human body that they will gladly want to follow along with. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him during a grade school introduction to the human body – he would be able to make even that boring fact-filled lecture full of fun.

David Hyde Pierce, as Drix the cold pill, is Rock’s teammate in Osmosis Jones, and this odd couple pairing turns out to work rather well. While Rock’s Osmosis tends to jump in with both feet – a reckless move that requires very little thought beforehand, Drix is able to rein that in somewhat, while still enabling Osmosis to use his quick-thinking mind to reach conclusions far quicker than Drix’s much more calculating intellect.

Just as Rock seems to fit Osmosis’ reckless character, Pierce is a perfect fit for Drix’s slower, calculated pace. When the two unite, these unlikely partners both learn a little something from each other as their friendship grows, and both come off the better for having met – and isn’t that the whole point of buddy cop films, even animated ones?

While Chris Rock and David Hyde Pierce take center stage, Laurence Fishburne quietly sneaks in and delivers a delightfully sinister performance as Thrax, a virus determined to take down the body in which all of them reside. With his deep, resonating voice, he’s is easily able to give his usual pleasant demeanor a sinister turn that will instantly have the viewer suspecting him of evil intentions, even before his character begins to slowly and methodically take down the “world” around him.

Since all of the animated action takes place on the cell level within a particular human named Bob, it’s unsurprising that the viewer occasionally gets live-action glimpses of the exterior – and come face to face with a live-action Bill Murray in his most disgusting role to date. His character’s lack of hygiene is apparent from the first glance, and the grease in his matted hair is just the tip of the iceberg in his unkempt appearance. Trust the Farrelly Brothers to turn an unkempt zookeeper into something viewers will find themselves struggling to watch without gagging.

While the reasoning behind the horrid appearance is easily apparent (the viewer will care about what happens to someone, no matter how disgusting their habits, if the film plays out correctly), the Farrelly Brothers could have easily toned it down a little bit while still managing to get the point across. As is, the exterior sequences are so nauseating, it degrades from the comical adventure taking place in the animated section of the film.

It’s almost as if the Farrelly Brothers – known for going a bit over-the-top (see There’s Something About Mary), tried to separate the over-the-top section from the rest of the film, and left the viewer with two incredibly different sections of the film: a nauseating display of grostequery in the live-action shots, and a fun animated adventure that displays none of the hideousness of the outside world – despite visiting easy targets like the nose and the bowels. Either that, or animated bodily functions are easier to stomach than the real thing.

With the exception of the nauseating live-action sequences, the Farrelly Brothers keep their usual over-the-top flair in check, and deliver a fun, animated buddy cop adventure from the unlikeliest of places – inside Bill Murray.

While the story includes fun characters like a power-hungry mayor (William Shatner) and a sinister villain (Fishburne) whose resonating voice nearly helps him steal the show, Osmosis Jones unlikely pairing of David Hyde Pierce as Drix the cold pill and Chris Rock as white blood cell cop Osmosis Jones are the biggest highlights of the film. Their unlikely pairing works perfectly, and viewers will follow them eagerly on their hunt for Thrax.

So, despite an occasional live-action bout of nastiness, Osmosis Jones turns out to be a fun-filled, animated, buddy cop film. Although it’s replay value is diminished by a nauseating Bill Murray, the Chris Rock/David Hyde Pierce odd couple is worth at least one viewing.

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