Farrelly, Peter, Murray, Bill, Farrelly, Bobby
- Belling, Catherine
- Date of entry: Jun-24-2003
- Last revised: Sep-05-2006
Most of the film takes place inside the body of a slob, a widower named Frank (Bill Murray). The live-action sequences trace Frank’s illness: because of his unhealthy habits, he contracts a virus, develops an extremely high fever, and almost dies. After a miraculous recovery, he decides to follow the advice of his sensible daughter, Shane, and get more exercise, eat healthy food, and so on.
The rest of the film is animated, and tells the story of the illness from inside Frank’s body, a city with its own police force (the immune system, its precincts in the lymph nodes), organized crime (microbes who have a steambath in Frank’s armpit), the media (NNN, the Nerve Network News). The town is run from Cerebellum Hall by the corrupt Mayor Phlegmming, who discourages healthy eating habits because the huge number of fat cells vote for him. Chaos threatens with the arrival of Thrax (the voice of Laurence Fishburne), a virus who, as he puts it himself, "makes ebola look like dandruff."
The heroes are Osmosis Jones, a white blood cell (who is literally blue, and voiced by the black comedian Chris Rock), and Drix, a cold capsule (voice of David Hyde Pierce). Jones has been suspended for using "unnecessary force," by making Frank throw up in public (and in fact saving his life by expelling a toxic oyster), and Drix develops an inferiority complex when he realizes that he does not cure disease, but is only "for the temporary relief of symptoms." The two team up as vigilantes and, along with the attractive Leah, another immune cell who works as the Mayor’s Aid, they defeat Thrax and save the city.
The Farrelly brothers are well known for their scatological humor. There is a great deal of very gross comedy in this film, but in the context of its comprehensively realized body-as-city allegory, most of it is appropriate and funny (even Spenser, writing The Faerie Queene, had to find a way to deal with the bowels in his allegorical body, Alma’s House).
The animation is superbly detailed and witty, making Frank’s interior a convincing microcosm, with speeding traffic on the blood vessel highways, the stomach a kind of Grand Central terminal, a brain with theaters screening Frank’s (live action) dreams, and a depressed hepatic inner city, where Jones and Drix get information from a very miserable ex-virus, sent in a flu shot, despised by the immune cells and detested by the real microbes it has betrayed.
Unlike other films set inside the human body (see Fantastic Voyage and Innerspace in this data base), where human beings are somehow shrunk in order to explore another human’s interior, Osmosis Jones personifies the microscopic, keeping Frank’s conscious world and the rather more sophisticated somatic one separate, though interdependent. While the somatic narrative is about politics and urban management and the redemption of heroes, it is also a reasonably coherent and complex depiction of biological processes.
Literalizing the metaphors of health as good government and illness as enemy invasion, and despite--or because of--its appeal to the popular and comic and grotesque, Osmosis Jones fits rather well into a long, Rabelaisian tradition of exploring the medical by recognizing both the efficiency and the extraordinary messiness of the human body.