The Farelly brothers, whose “There’s Something About Mary” plumbed new depths of bodily function humor (and ended up on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest movies) have plumbed new depths of internal plumbing in “Osmosis Jones.” It’s a PG-rated, mostly animated movie about a very hip white blood cell (voice of Chris Rock) and a cold capsule (voice of David Hyde Pierce) who fight a nasty virus (voice of Laurence Fishburne) to save the scrofulous body of zoo attendant Frank (Bill Murray).
The live action story, starring Murray with Elena Franklin as his daughter, Shane, Chris Elliott as his friend and a brief, effervescent appearance by Molly Shannon as Shane’s teacher, takes up about a quarter of the screen time. The rest takes place inside Frank’s body, cleverly conceived as a swarming metropolis with white cell cops fighting off everything from gingivitis to intestinal unpleasantness. The details — and many of the jokes — may be a little hard to follow for anyone who does not have a working knowledge of anatomy. But the basic story line of a cop who likes to do things his way paired up with a straight-arrow, by-the-books partner joining forces against a lethal bad guy is standard movie stuff, and, as usual, it works pretty well.
Parents should know that the PG rating is deceptive. The ratings board does not take cartoon violence very seriously, but some kids may be upset that characters they care about are in peril and some characters die or come very close. More than that, the movie is extremely gross, with both tension and jokes relating to every kind of bodily fluid, excretion, and function. If you see this movie, pass by the snack bar, as you will not be in the mood to eat a bucket of popcorn or anything else. Parents should also know that the movie features a child whose mother has died and who is terribly worried about losing her father, who seems bent on suicide by junk food. Some children will be upset by the way that the child has to assume the role of parent.
Families who see this movie will want to talk about how we keep our bodies strong enough to fight off infection and viruses, and the challenge of deciding between things that feel good now and those that feel good later. How does that relate to the choice between the two candidates for mayor?
What does Osmosis mean about “being too careful?” Talk about the news broadcasts that the characters inside of Frank watch. If there was one going on inside you, what would it say? Think about how well your family does on taking care of yourselves and what you can do to do better. Believe me, you won’t be stopping for fast food on the way home from this one — you may even be inspired to eat your broccoli.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Fantastic Voyage,” an exciting adventure inside a human body, and “The Iron Giant,” by the same animators. Both are outstanding family movies.