Deep Throat

In Osmosis Jones a virus takes over Bill Murray's body. (So that's his excuse.)

During this cinematic Summer of Dumb, it would be all too easy to celebrate half-assed cleverness as a virtue, especially when proffered by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who elevated the gross-out to an art form in Kingpin and There's Something About Mary. Osmosis Jones is a film about the animated inner workings of a slovenly zookeeper, Frank (Bill Murray), with a bottomless appetite for crap, including a hard-boiled egg that's been sucked on by a caged monkey. Frank's body is less a temple than a decaying ghetto, complete with cardsharp hustlers and viral hit men (chief among them Thrax, an infection with E. coli envy, voiced by Laurence Fishburne) plotting Frank's demise from the inside and corrupt politicians trying to prop up the rubble. Mix in two squabbling cop partners -- Chris Rock as Osmosis Jones, a white blood cell with a badge; and David Hyde Pierce as Drix, proud cold medicine in Buzz Lightyear's rave threads -- and the whole thing plays like Lethal Weapon 4 recast as a Fantastic VoyageSaturday-morning cartoon.

It's a mess, and only a vaguely different sort than the Farrellys are used to making; they keep the jizm inside. Save two scenes in which Frank literally explodes all over his daughter's teacher, Mrs. Boyd (irritant Molly Shannon, channeling every character she ever played on Saturday Night Live), the bodily fluids are seen only during the animated sequences. But this is a family film, rated PG, meaning the brothers had to excise a sperm-workout scene inside a testicular hangout called Gonad's Gym. There's no accounting for taste, perhaps, when your leading man is willing to swallow anything.

But Osmosis Jones, which jarringly cuts back and forth between the real world and Frank's animated interior, is too obvious and disjointed to satisfy even Frank's cravings; it's junk food. The scenes in the real world are just tepid setups for the goings-on inside Frank's pale, bloated body, and those set inside Frank (animated by Tom Sito and Piet Kroon, rookies who show their awkwardness) slide by on sight gags that become tiresome. It's funny and even a little stunning the first time we see how fetid Frank's infrastructure has become, but there are only so many ways to turn organs into cellular nightspots and government buildings before the settings begin to look the same.

By the time our tour of Frank's innards lands us in the Zit, a throbbing club in which an animated Kid Rock performs (as Kidney Rock, har har), you can't help but feel the excursion has reached its inevitable dead end. You won't laugh, but you may very well sneeze at the whole affair. And after the vacuous dazzle of Shrekand Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the animation here is positively retro.

That Osmosis Jonesplays like a sloppy hodgepodge is no surprise: The live-action scenes were done by the Farrellys, the animation by Sito and Kroon (whose names sound like bodily functions), and the script was penned by another first-timer, Marc Hyman (whose name is a body part). Nobody seems to be on the same page: The live-action scenes drag like Frank's fleshy belly, while the animated sequences work overtime to compensate for the slack pacing. The tone varies wildly: The Farrellys keep things dim and mawkish, referring repeatedly to a dead wife (she OD'd on hamburgers, or so it's suggested) and a live daughter (Elena Franklin), who might as well be embalmed, while the animated scenes skitter with ADD pacing. Just when things get going in the stomach "airport" ("Unannounced oyster now arriving at Gate Four!" shouts the intercom), we're yanked out like an ingrown hair and thrust back into the banal everyday.

Rock and Hyde Pierce do little more than play variations on their familiar personas: Rock prattles on, gamely trying to milk blood from a gallstone, while the Frasiercostar looks on with indifference and disdain. It's 48 Hrs.starring a time-release cold capsule. William Shatner blusters his way through the role of Mayor Phlegmming, and Brandy Norwood plays his assistant, the love interest who isn't terribly interesting.

Lost in all the pea-soup vomit and lemon-yellow mucus is Murray, who's left for dead in a scene that kills whatever momentum the film can muster. He seems to have little interest or life in him; Frank's lethargy is contagious, infecting the film like a deadly virus. He does more damage than Fishburne's dreadlocked Thrax, whose touch is lethal and whose looks are eerily Darth Maul. So if you feel the need to see Osmosis Jones, it'd be wise to get your shots.

 
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