"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 voiced a little too well 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, as well. David Hyde Pierce is enjoyably 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). Fishburne's performance is possibly a little too evil, and his sequences might scare or disturb the youngest viewers. Outside, Murray is the weakest he's been in memory and Molly Shannon is remarkably shrill as the teacher of Frank's daughter.
While the animated half of "Osmosis Jones" makes for worthwhile viewing, I wish that either the entire film could be animated or the two directing teams could have worked closer together for a more consistently funny and cohesive picture; the animated half is gross, but witty, clever and occasionally hilarious - the live-action half is just gross.
VIDEO: "Osmosis Jones" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Warner Brothers. Given the concern about the studio's decision to not present two recent family films on DVD in their original aspect ratio (a decision that was thankfully eventually changed), it's fantastic to see this film looking superb in its original aspect ratio. Again, the film is presented in two sections - the live action section, done by the Farrelly Brothers and the animation section. The live-action section is generally without concerns, aside from a couple of tiny instances of edge enhancement. The animated section, on the other hand, looks outstanding. Sharpness and detail are excellent across the board, as the film looked beautifully sharp and well-defined.
Again, the only fault I noticed throughout the movie was the occasional slight instance of edge enhancement. Otherwise, "Osmosis Jones" looked superb - I noticed nothing in the way of print flaws, as not even minor specks were observed. No pixelation was noticed, either.
Colors in the animated sequences looked rich and vibrant - they seemed even bolder than I'd remembered them in the theatrical presentation. Colors looked flawless, with no smearing or any other problems. On the flip side, colors in the scenes outside of Frank looked subdued. Aside from a few very slight concerns, "Osmosis Jones" boasted excellent image quality in this top-notch transfer from Warner Brothers.
SOUND: "Osmosis Jones" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. I remembered being impressed with the film's audio presentation when I saw it in the theater and was actually even more impressed when I watched it on this DVD release. Sound designer Randy Thom ("Cast Away", "Final Fantasy") has done a superb job with creating the audio of the universe inside Frank. The early persuit by Jones of some germs in the mouth has rather gross and realistic sounds positioned all around the listening space. A scene late in the movie in Frank's subconcious has audio clips from Frank's memories coming from all speakers. The enjoyable surround use for various interesting and occasionally gross sound effects continues during many of the scenes inside Frank, while the scenes outside fold-up into the usual "comedy audio", with the majority of the sound coming from the front.
Audio quality remained terrific throughout the movie. Although the music remained a bit too much of a constant presence throughout the movie, it sounded stellar here, coming through clearly and richly, with deep bass and excellent reinforcement from the surrounds. Sound effects came through crisply and a bit too convincingly in regards to some of the grosser sounds. Dialogue, whether in the live action sequences or by the voice-over actors in the animated parts, came through clearly and sounded natural.
MENUS:: Warner Brothers has produced some fun animated menus for the film, with the options listed as various "gross" titles that change into the actual feature (Bowel Movie/Play Movie) when selected.
Commentary: This is a commentary from animation directors Piet Kroon and Tom Sito, writer Marc Hyman and producer Zak Penn. Thankfully, all of them have been recorded together, which makes for a more lively discussion of the movie, since the group is able to bounce ideas off one another. All four do a very nice job of discussing both the technical details, such as the animation techniques, as well as the general production facts, such as working with the actors and developing the screenplay and design of the movie. The commentary starts off with some noticable pauses of silence, but the discussion gets more lively as the track goes on, which was great, because not only do the four provide some interesting information, but there's some great sarcastic humor throughout, as well.
Frank's Gross Anatomy: HBO "Making Of" Special: This documentary is generally more of the usual; a promotional feature that has the actors and filmmakers discussing the story and their characters. Finally, about halfway through the documentary, we get more in-depth information about the animation and the voice-over performances that had to be done for the animation section of the film.
Deleted Scenes: These scenes, made up of short clips and longer sequences, are not presented separately, but in one back-to-back clip. Although most of the scenes have some level of completed animation, there are a few moments here and there that are the rough drawings. These scenes mainly seemed like like they were deleted because they didn't seem funny or necessary to moving the plot along.
Investigating the Vocal Cords: This is a short featurette about the actors who provided the voice-over for the characters. The actors offer their thoughts about doing the film and the animators discuss what they were looking for from the character voices.
Trailer: The film's trailer, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 audio.
DVD-ROM: Web-links and "future online events".
Also: Inside the package was a CD sampler, with songs and snippets of songs from the soundtrack.
Final Thoughts: Had "Osmosis Jones" been a completely animated feature from the two animation directors, the film would have been more consistently entertaining. As it is, the live-action pieces don't take away too majorly, but the film does start to come to a halt whenever the animation's not on-screen. Warner's DVD offers excellent audio/video quality and a solid batch of supplements.