A cautionary tale of the dangers of bacteria and bad eating habits, "Osmosis Jones" is a kid-friendly, but utterly stomach-churning, amalgamation of pure animation intercut with live-action sequences. Bereft of any workable comedic moments, the movie is a long (at a short 83 minutes), crass slog through, sheer awfulness aside, a fairly original premise. That it was directed by the almost always reliable Bobby and Peter Farrelly (1998's "There's Something About Mary," 2000's "Me, Myself & Irene") is even more reason to put away the party hats and mourn the loss of an even remotely humorous picture.
Frank (Bill Murray) is an unkempt, unsanitary widowed zookeeper with a young daughter named Shane (Elena Franklin) to take care of on his own. Because of his complete resistance to eat healthy or exercise, more often than not it is Shane who must become the parent, valiantly attempting to warn him that his negative lifestyle may cause problems down the road.
Eating an egg that he pries from the mouth of a donkey (but not before it has fallen onto the germ-infested ground) set the internal story of Frank's body into motion. The titular character, Osmosis Jones (voiced by Chris Rock), is a hard-working white blood cell cop who, nonetheless, seems to always work his way into trouble. Scrambling to clean up the bacterial mess left in Frank's mouth, Jones soon befriends and teams up with a cold capsule called Drix (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) that Frank has taken to stop the evil Thrax (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), a virus dead-set on destroying the host of the body.
The idea of blending a live-action story with an animated one set completely within a human's body (which is set up as a whole city, complete with traffic jams, police stations, and airports) is quite an ambitious and interesting one. Unfortunately, "Osmosis Jones" is far too loud, chaotic, and uneven to present the viewer with anything resembling entertainment.
The animated scenes, which take up about two-thirds of the running time, are visually pleasing, but not much else. None of the characters within Frank's body are particularly endearing, and the story arc is jumbled up within a screenplay, by Marc Hyman, that might be considered stupefying, at best. Chris Rock's giddy personality has apparently been locked away for his voice work as Osmosis Jones, because neither he, nor the character, is memorable.
The live-action scenes are a little better, if only because the theme of trying to stay healthy hits closer to home. Elena Franklin, in her motion picture debut, gives a far superior performance to anyone else involved, as a girl seriously worried about her reckless father's ways. It is almost a shame, really, that Franklin's very fine turn is in service of such a throwaway movie. Any chance of Bill Murray (2000's "Charlie's Angels"), as Frank, becoming a person worth caring about is destroyed due to how repulsive he is. Not only will he put anything into his mouth, but even when he suspects health problems may be looming on the horizon, he puts another piece of candy into his mouth. Other characteristics improve matters none, such as the ingrown toenail that he holds no reservations about showing to a waiter at a restaurant, or a major zit on his forehead that pops on Mrs. Boyd (Molly Shannon), Shane's science teacher. The bright Molly Shannon (2000's "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas") is a welcome presence as usual, and she garners the sole laugh to be had in the whole film, but otherwise has little to do. As for Chris Elliott (2001's "Scary Movie 2"), as Frank's equally rotten brother, the less said, the better.
There is nothing worthy of recommending in "Osmosis Jones," and it's a shame. While the film is PG-rated, and thus suitable for children, it is just as gross as the Farrelly Brothers' previous excursions--but nothing works. The jokes, including yet another embarrassing riff on 1999's "The Matrix," seem about as fresh as moldy bread run over by a dump truck, and aside from Franklin's wise-beyond-her-years Shane, there is no one to connect, or sympathize, with. "Osmosis Jones" only reinforces the urban legend that as far as the state of most movies go, August really is the dog days of summer.
©2001 by Dustin Putman