The film that answers the question: “Just how does a film get rated PG for ‘bodily humor’?” is here. And while I’m willing to bet that any savvy moviegoer has at least a clue as to the meaning of the phrase “bodily humor” (after all, comedies have never been quite the same since the campfire scene in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles), I daresay there are a few things this movie can teach you about the concept. What is most interesting is the fact that Osmosis Jones was only awarded a tame “PG” rating. Yet it contains two gags (and I use the term advisedly) that grossed me out far more than the raunchiest excess of the most hard-core splatter horror movie. But of course, that’s at least part of the point: to shock the viewer. And on that level, Osmosis Jones succeeds admirably. It’s also an unrelentingly clever film. The script’s take on the human body as a city (the city of Frank, in this case) with white-blood-cell cops and a mayor (plus a variety of takes on other city dwellers) is certainly that. The pun-filled dialogue (and production design — don’t miss the signs and logos and graffiti) never lets up. The animated sequences are truly first-rate. Some of them are visually dazzling. and he animated characters are good. Chris Rock is surprisingly subdued and believable as the title character. David Hyde Pierce makes the most out of the overachiever — and impossibly square –cold remedy, Drix. And Laurence Fishburne’s character, Thrax, the deadly virus that invades Bill Murray’s body, is a genuinely creepy villain (horror movies don’t often have such chilling monsters). Unfortunately, this is only part of the story. There are two major problems with the movie. The first — and larger — problem lies in the fact that the film is so blinded by how clever it is that it forgets to be terribly funny (a failing that plagued last year’s Monkey Bone). Most of the solid laughs are generated by David Hyde Pierce’s Drix, and there aren’t enough of those to carry the film. The second problem is one that seems to constantly plague so much modern film comedy: the desire to create outrageous caricatures for characters and then try to make them somehow appealing. Bill Murray’s character, Frank, is a case study in this. We are here given a “hero” so impossibly gross that it’s a stretch to even believe in his daughter’s devotion to him. It’s more than that to ask the viewer to sympathize. Presented as a disgusting, ungroomed, unhygienic slob who’ll eat anything (he works on the “10-second rule” — if you pick up anything that hits the ground within 10 seconds, it’s OK to eat it), there’s simply nothing appealing about Frank on any level. The irony is that we end up caring what happens to him at all only because we care about the cartoon characters inhabiting his body. There’s something very wrong with that concept. The Farrelly Brothers’ handling of the live-action sections is never more than perfunctory. Any directorial kudos for Osmosis Jones belong to the far-less-publicized animation directors, Piet Kroon (T.R.A.N.S.I.T.) and Tom Sito (Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit).
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