Way back in high school science class I read a series of Reader’s Digest articles that focused on health and the way the body worked. "I’m Joe’s heart," "I’m Jane’s liver," I’m Joe’s colon," etc. The stories were nicely done, if memory serves, but they didn’t carry much punch for a 15-year-old. Now, junior highers and high schoolers around the country have been given a much cooler way to investigate what makes them tick: Osmosis Jones! It’s a grand journey into the center of the body, down the superhighway of the esophagus, through the maze of acid tanks in the stomach, into the grimy mess of the large and small intestines. Not recalling much of what I read at 15, however, I’ll refrain from making scientific and medical statements as to the accuracy of the internal workings so vividly displayed in this film. Furthermore, if Chris Rock—or anyone else in Osmosis Jones—is living inside my body, I’m going to need a really good doctor, STAT.
The story is split between live action and animation. Bill Murray’s slovenly Frank serves as the host for the war soon to explode. A nasty virus named Thrax (aka the red death) has come to call and he won’t stop until Frank is dead. That poses a serious problem for beat cop Osmosis Jones and his white blood cell pals whose job it is to rid Frank’s internal streets of criminals and ne'er-do-wells. So while Mayor Phlegmming and Tom Colonic (phlegm and colon, get it?) battle it out for superiority in a nasty political campaign to control Frank’s inner workings, Osmosis and his new ally, a common cold pill named Drix, try to take down the bad guys. It’s a gooey, goopy adventure into the far recesses of Frank’s glands. Will the forces of good triumph or will the Jafar-esque virus have his way? Only the bladder knows.
positive elements: Eat healthy and exercise or you too could end up like Frank. Osmosis Jones doesn’t just hint at this 4th-grade health lesson, it fairly screams it. Frank’s daughter, Shane, nags her dad endlessly about taking care of himself. Shane’s mother has already passed on from a mysterious sickness caused by "not eating right" and she’s determined not to lose her Dad the same way. Meanwhile, inside Frank’s body, Osmosis risks life and limb (do white blood cells have limbs?) to battle the virus and save Frank’s life. He’s a good cop who’s gotten a bad rap and he desperately wants his spotless—white—reputation back. Drix suffers from self-esteem issues and Osmosis teaches him that he can do anything if he’ll just believe he can ("I’ve known sugar pills who have cured cancer, just because they thought they could," Osmosis insists).
spiritual content: Hare Krishna cells sing and dance in Frank’s stomach/airport.
sexual content: Visual innuendo includes Osmosis ogling a centerfold which bears a "naked" strand of DNA. Several "female" cells wear bikinis; some of them dance suggestively at The Zit Club. Sporting a crush on the short-skirted mayoral assistant, Leah, Osmosis posts a picture of her in his locker. Her face is pasted over a skimpily-clothed pin-up of another "woman." When Osmosis tries out a lame pickup line on Leah, asking her if she wants to find a secluded spot to "do some dividing," she retorts that he looks like the kind of cell that "mostly divides by himself."
violent content: Should one classify as violent content scenes in which white blood cells attack viral agents? What about when a cold capsule douses germs with toxic chemicals? If so, Osmosis Jones fairly reeks with violence. All of it, though, is cartoonish and could never be defined by anyone as explicit. In one scene (pictured above), Osmosis and Thrax go head to head in a Matrix-inspired bout. Thrax slices cells into pieces with his razor-sharp claws. "Gunfire" is exchanged between cops and germs. And in what may be the movie’s most uncalled-for moment, the mayor physically kicks a kid in a wheelchair out of his way after using him to boost his political image. A muscle spasm is depicted as an earthquake. Sneezing as a raging storm. And so on and so on.
crude or profane language: One cell blurts, "Son of a botulist." Another exclaims, "Holy Spit." Besides these "creative" almost-vulgarities, there are also one or two "d--ns" and a few "oh my gods." Inside Frank’s body, the cells prefer taking Frank’s name in vain, rather than God’s.
drug and alcohol content: A drug-related joke refers to a crooked cell stealing adrenaline. Frank and his friend, Bob, joke about getting drunk. Indeed, when Frank gets sick, Bob urges him to drink more beer since he needs his fluids (Frank complies). Bob smokes a cigar.
other negative elements: Bodily functions provide fodder for subtle humor. A crater full of urine empties when Frank goes to the bathroom, and mayoral candidate Tom Colonic promises to "get things moving again." His TV ad ends with the slogan, "A regular guy." Osmosis tells tales of growing up near Frank’s rectum ("Did you ever try to blow-dry your hair with a fart," he quips). In the real world, Frank dreams that he’s in public wearing only underwear. And a close-up of a big zit popping put me off food altogether for at least half a day.
conclusion: Zits notwithstanding, Osmosis Jones is truly imaginative, innovative and fun. Honest! It’s as if the Farrelly brothers are performing a public service assignment after getting themselves busted for beating up kids at the park. Can Osmosis Jones really come from the same two men who bludgeoned the world with R-rated gross-fests Me, Myself & Irene and There's Something About Mary? Osmosis looks like it’s an overgrown health class film produced by a cartoon-crazy nutritionist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m tickled three shades of cellular pink that this movie isn’t chock-full of vile content. I’m just reeling from the surprise.