At first glance, "Osmosis Jones" (which arrives on DVD and video this week) has all the ingredients of your prototypical cliché-ridden buddy cop movie. You have the loudmouth maverick cop who nobody takes seriously, as well as the straight-laced new partner he doesn't get along with. There's also the police chief who spends his days yelling at the maverick cop to get his act together, and the political bigwig who sends our heroes off on a foolhardy mission that no one expects them to complete. And true to form, the schedule of activities for the protagonists include a visit to a nightclub run by the bad guys, shaking down a jive-talking informer in the bad side of town, and dealing with the inevitable hostage situation involving a loved one. However, what makes "Osmosis Jones" worth a look is that the titular maverick cop is actually a white blood cell and the 'city' he patrols is the inside of an adult male.
Meet Frank Detorri (Bill Murray of "Charlie's Angels"), a zoo worker who is raising his daughter Shane (Elena Franklin) by himself after the untimely death of his wife. Despite such a heavy responsibility, he has little concern over his health (or even his personal hygiene), preferring to spend his days shoveling junk food into his grossly out-of-shape body. To his detriment, he ends up eating a hard-boiled egg he has accidentally dropped, as he reasons that if it was on the ground for less than ten seconds, it should still be 'good'.
The film then enters the animated world inside Frank's body, which is a sprawling metropolis known as the City of Frank. It turns out that a nasty bacteria known as Thrax (voiced by Laurence Fishburne of "The Matrix") has hitched a ride on the fallen foodstuff, and decides to make Frank his next victim. Of course, Thrax's arrival does not go unnoticed, and Frank's finest is sent to investigate, with loudmouthed leukocyte Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock of "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back") being partnered with Drix (David Hyde Pierce of "A Bug's Life"), a 12-hour time-release cold capsule that Frank has just taken. Unfortunately, Osmosis and Drix find their investigation hampered by the political maneuvering of Mayor Phlegmming (William Shatner, seen recently in "Miss Congeniality"), whose laissez-faire policies with respect to Frank's health are under attack by political opponent Tom Colonic (Ron Howard, director of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"). Will these two reluctant partners be able to save Frank from Thrax... as well as himself?
"Osmosis Jones" essentially rehashes every hackneyed convention of every buddy cop movie you have ever seen, and shares a number of similarities to the plot of Jackie Chan's "Rush Hour". And being the product of 'gross-out humor' inventors Peter and Bobby Farrelly ("Me, Myself, and Irene"), "Osmosis Jones" features plenty of gags (mostly unfunny) involving bodily functions, of which Bill Murray is the unwitting victim-of course given that the film is targeted towards kids, they never reach the ribaldry of "There's Something About Mary".
But despite these shortcomings, "Osmosis Jones" shines in its animated sequences, which occupy over half of the film's running time. In addition to being a technically-polished blend of traditional and computer animation, the Marc Hyman script is rather imaginative in how it recontextualizes cellular-level goings-on in a body in desperate need of some urban renewal. The landscapes inside Frank are varied, from the glistening towers of the brain stem where Mayor Phlegmming (mis)manages Frank's day-to-day functions, to the airport-like stomach where new arrivals are greeted following oral ingestion, to the decrepit and rundown parts of town such as a crime-infested nightclub that emerges inside a pimple. In addition, some of the humor is surprisingly sophisticated, such as a flu vaccine being labeled as a 'snitch', Drix's faithfulness to his labeled instructions for use, or the nightmares found in Frank's subconscious.
The voice acting in "Osmosis Jones" is also top-notch. Rock's Osmosis Jones calls to mind Chris Tucker's similar character in the "Rush Hour" movies, while Pierce is bang-on as his straight-laced and medically-savvy partner, as is Shatner's Mayor Phlegmming. As chief bad guy Thrax, Fishburne is suitably creepy yet cool, while singer Brandy ("I Still Know What You Did Last Summer") lends her voice as Leah, the Mayor's assistant who has a Jones for Osmosis. In comparison, the performances in the live-action sequences are less convincing, with the tolerable performances of Murray and Franklin being supported by Chris Elliott ("Scary Movie 2") as Frank's ill-mannered best friend and Molly Shannon ("Superstar") as Elena's teacher.
Overall, "Osmosis Jones" is an animated film that will appeal to both kids and adults. The energetic animation and broad humor will appeal to the former, while the script's clever twist on the age-old buddy cop movie will ensure the latter a good time. If you missed it during its theatrical run this past summer, be sure to check it out on DVD or home video.