2001, PG, 83 min. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter. Starring Brandy Norwood, William Shatner, Laurence Fishburne, David Hyde Pierce, Chris Rock, Molly Shannon, Chris Elliott, Bill Murray.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 10, 2001
There are certain mysteries of the universe that I will never truly understand: the big bang theory, circuit breakers, the comeback of the mullet. Having slept my way through most science classes, I never figured out osmosis either. For parents hoping this part live-action, part animated trip through the human body will serve as a life science primer for kiddies, well, you're barking up the wrong costoclavicular ligament. The human body is but an elaborate backdrop for the animated portion, providing some neat visuals and a couple of cute jokes (its scrappy hero, the Chris Rock-voiced Osmosis Jones, is a white blood cell who hails from “the wrong side of the digestive tract”), but don't mistake this for half-baked idea for Anatomy 101 … or groundbreaking cinema … or even a worthy descendant of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Bill Murray -- or rather, his raggedy, pot-bellied person -- stars as Frank, the host body for a city of cells united to keep Frank chugging along in his path of potato chip domination. But when Frank eats a hard-boiled egg that did time in a chimp's mouth, the City of Frank feels it: sore throat, sneezes, intestinal discomfort. Mayor Phlegmming (voiced by Shatner, appropriately slimy) tries to urge his constituents that everything's okay, but he puts cop Osmosis Jones on the case anyway and sends in for backup in the way of Drix, a 12-hour cold pill (Pierce). But this isn't just any cold -- it's a mean, Ebola-like virus called Thrax (Fishburne, like a diabolical Shaft), and unless Osmosis can save the day, the City of Frank will be shut down for good. Osmosis Jones has shadings of a brilliant idea, but it never puts to good use the ingeniously warped humor of the Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary) -- maybe because not only did they not write the script, they also only directed the abbreviated and underwhelming live-action sequences. Osmosis is all concept: cute without ever exhibiting much heart, and clever without being truly funny or inventive. There is one inspired passage into Frank's subconscious that reminded me of the icky, sticky places the Farrelly Brothers have gone before, and it's an awful tease. The ideas are there, hints of genius, but no one ignites them. Add Osmosis Jones to that list of universal enigmas, and, more specifically, how the Farrelly Brothers could have done so little with so much.