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'Osmosis Jones'

'Osmosis Jones' takes a fantastic voyage inside Bill Murray

Friday, August 10, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In a way, "Osmosis Jones" may be too hip and sophisticated for its PG audience.

    'Osmosis Jones'

RATING: PG for bodily humor

STARRING: Bill Murray, voice of Chris Rock

DIRECTORS: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Piet Kroon, Tom Sito

CRITIC'S CALL: 2 1/2 stars


Yes, this is a movie in which Bill Murray, playing a widowed dad who works at a New England zoo, vomits on his daughter's teacher (Molly Shannon), plops a filthy foot with an ingrown nail atop a restaurant table, sprouts an oozing zit between his eyes and sports a runny nose that could use an introduction to a clean handkerchief instead of a strong snort. Eeew is right.

But that's the live-action half of "Osmosis Jones," directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, whose comedy is like a laugh-limbo game. As in "How low can you go?"

The other part of the movie is animated, and those sequences are directed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito. Between them, they've worked as animators or storyboard artists on such features as "The Iron Giant," "The Little Mermaid" and "Shrek." Their part of the comedy shows writer Marc Hyman to be a clever guy who may be aiming too high in a world that often aims too low.

Will many youngsters get the signs or lines or sight gags that fly by inside a human body? "Me and my girlfriend are going down to the kidneys to see the Stones. ... Million Membrane March ... (and, at a doughnut shop) No Cilia. No Cytoplasm. No Service."

"Osmosis Jones" is the name of an animated white blood cell (voice of Chris Rock) who lives inside the unhealthy body of 40-something Frank (Bill Murray). Although Frank's heart is in the right place, his health habits are deplorable. He seems to exist on a steady diet of junk and fast food, shuns exercise and has no problem with picking up a hard-boiled egg from the ground outside a chimp's cage and eating it.

That triggers our voyage to the animated City of Frank, a tiny teeming metropolis inside Frank's body.

Think "Fantastic Voyage" or "Innerspace" but with cartoon, comic creations who inhabit a city unto itself, where the stomach serves as the arrivals terminal, Hare Krishnas and hucksters with bags of oranges crop up, the mayor is trying to fend off an opponent named Tom Colonic and the police department resembles all the other movie cop shops. The boss is a big-bellied guy who screams at Osmosis, an officer summoned to the Lymphnodes 3rd Precinct.

Osmosis is seen as a troublemaker but he's given the chance to redeem himself when he's teamed with a cherry-flavored cold capsule named Drixenol (David Hyde Pierce) and encounters a villainous virus named Thrax (Laurence Fishburne). The bad bug could, literally, be the death of Frank but only Osmosis seems to believe that.

"Osmosis Jones" could be the most expensive movie destined to wind up in a health or nutrition or science class. Its messages about taking care of yourself, shunning junk food and not vomiting on your daughter's teacher are timeless, of course.

The live-action part of the movie with a lethargic Murray seems cheap and thinly developed, especially when compared with the rich inner workings of Frank. In the City of Frank, the gags and jokes speed by quickly, and anyone who cannot read will miss some of the humor.

The animation isn't spectacular; the fun is in the way the city is imagined. In addition to Rock, Fishburne and Hyde Pierce, the voice cast includes William Shatner as the mayor, singer Brandy Norwood as his aide and Ron Howard as the mayor's opponent. If the outerspace were as fleshed out, so to speak, as the innerspace, the movie would feel more balanced ... and like the winner it should have been.

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