You'd imagine that a Farrelly Brothers flick set completely inside the human body would provide the perfect excuse for the gross-out auteurs to fully plumb the depths of their favourite scatological functions. Yet despite Osmosis Jones opening with a monkey scratching its arse and ending with Bill Murray breaking wind (as well as containing entire scenes set in the bladder, bowels and uvula), the Farrellys' artistic stamp is somewhat smudged. Yes, there are bucketfuls of bodily fluids and pastoral New England settings, both of which lend the film a definite Farrelly feel, but their presence seems like an afterthought, a calculated attempt to woo hipper audiences and distract them from Osmosis Jones' conventional, decidedly PG-rated innards.
Despite its swagger of "right now" edginess, Osmosis Jones is merely a re-working of Warner Bros' two most successful modern genres: the special-effects comedy and the buddy picture. After 14 years, both these formulas have grown tired (Jack Frost or Glimmer Man, anyone?), so the folks at Warner Bros have attempted celluloid alchemy by combining the two seminal blockbusters that got each of these genres going back in the '80s: Lethal Weapon and Innerspace.
Admittedly, writer Marc Hyman does make this patchwork of dusty archetypes work, and the A-list cast doesn't hurt either. The hero, Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock, as a `white' blood cell... geddit?), is a lively riff on Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop-routine, while Niles-from-Frasier David Hyde Pierce is a reliable straight man as Drix, an anthropomorphic cold pill. The movie also benefits from the presence of Mayor Phlegmming, a dissembling politician in the form of an animated William Shatner (who, amazingly, is less cartoonish than the real-life Shatner).
Strangely, it's these creaky old stock characters that breathe life into Osmosis Jones - and the newer, more topical elements that flatline the movie. The Farrelly-directed scenes with Murray and Chris Elliott are uninspired, and the animation, directed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito, simply doesn't dazzle (and do we really need yet another parody of a Matrix-style fight scene?).
Osmosis Jones does have its moments, although most of its jokes involve groan-inducing physiological puns - - when one amoeba asks another what he's doing over the weekend, the response is: "'Going down to the Kidneys to see the Stones'." No doubt there are worse ways you can spend a Friday night, but in a summer that features astounding technical work on blockbusters like Shrek, Osmosis Jones looks and feels like a Saturday morning cartoon.
While not bad enough to make you ill, Osmosis Jones is hardly a paragon of cinematic strength. Some hi-tech surgery on the animation and an injection of original jokes would have helped, but it's still enjoyably diverting - - especially for kids.