"Osmosis Jones" feels like two films in one, but it's rare that I've felt so differently about two halves of the same whole; one picture is incredibly witty and entertaining while the other is amateurish and borderline dull. The suprising thing is that the ones responsible for the horrid side of "Jones" are none other than the Farrelly Brothers, those two who were responsible for such pictures as "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber".
"Osmosis Jones" starts off as a live-action story about a zookeeper named Frank(Bill Murray), who is a complete and utter slob as well as a single parent of a daughter. The two are having lunch in front of a monkey cage when one of the inhabitants grabs Frank's egg away. After a wrestling match, the egg drops in the bottom of the cage - and I wouldn't want to guess what's around down there. Yet, Frank, being the gross individual that he is, picks up the egg and drops it in his mouth.
At that point, we are dropped down into Frank himself, rendered in gorgeous animation by co-directors Piet Kroon and Tom Sito, who have done an amazing job. The insides of Frank have been set up as a universe of its own, from a giant dam that has been built inside the nose to the outer reaches of Frank's toenail to the stomach airport. Osmosis (Chris Rock) is a white blood cell that's one of the police officers that guards the city of Frank against stray viruses or bacteria that attempt to make their way down to where they can actually do some damage. When a virus called Thrax (voiced wonderfully by Laurence Fishburne) hitches a ride on the egg, it's up to Osmosis and his new partner, a cold tablet called Drix (David Hyde Pierce) to hunt him down throughout the universe that is Frank.
The main problem is that the live-action material is very weak - it feels like leftover material from previous Farrelly outings. Even Bill Murray doesn't do a great deal beyond blandly attempt to go through the gross-out jokes. It's odd, considering that one of Murray's best recent roles was in "Kingpin", which the Farrelly Brothers directed. Another serious problem is that, in comparison to the highly detailed and visually interesting cartoon world, the Farrelly's half of the picture seems about as visual as most student films. It looks as if the directors simply set the camera down and had the actors run through the scenes once. As drab and dull looking a live-action pic as I've seen in a while, it's suprising that usual Farrelly cinematographer Mark Irwin didn't do a better job this time around.
At least the Farrelly Brothers have decided to use that thing called sound a bit more this time around, which is something that's been seemingly unfamiliar to them in their past comedic outings. Once we go into the cartoon world of Osmosis, sound designer Randy Thom (Oscar nominated for "Cast Away") takes over and makes for an even more convincing inner world. The only problem that I had with the sound was not with the subtle details, but with the less-subtle elements - namely, the loud soundtrack of radio-friendly tunes that took up a bit too much presence.
The innerspace is further added to by the fact that the folks providing voices seem to at least make an attempt. Chris Rock is entertaining as Osmosis, although it didn't seem like he was allowed to improvise that much. David Hyde Pierce is entertaininly deadpan as the cold tablet and William Shatner is perfect as the mayor of Frank (also look for Ron Howard providing the voice of the mayor's opponent). Outside, Murray is the weakest he's been in memory and Molly Shannon is remarkably shrill as the teacher of Frank's daughter.
Towards the end of the movie though, both sides begin to wear out their welcome, although I think that it was simply the terrible live-action half that dragged the entire effort down the drain. Not a completely unsuccessful movie, "Osmosis" simply could have been saved had the Farrellys been removed from the project and the animation would be the entire film. Rent it or see it at a matinee.