- Movie Rating -

Innerspace (1987)

| July 3, 1987

I guess that I might have expected that eventually, given the forefront of special effects, that eventually someone would get around to remaking Fantastic Voyage, that still impressive 1966 sci-fi adventure about a group of scientists who are shrunk down to the size of a molecule and injected into a dying man’s body so that they can perform surgery that would be impossible the old fashioned way.  I guess that I didn’t expect that it would look like Innerspace, but I’m happy for that movie that we got.

Instead of remaking the film, director Joe Dante and writers Jefferey Boam and Chip Proser have turned the material around and made it into a zany sci-fi comedy, a buddy picture and a rom-com all mixed into one.  When the material is light and fluffy, it works beautifully, but when it tries to deal with its larger plot it can be bulky and unwieldy.

The movie stars Dennis Quaid as Tuck Pendleton, a sort-of fly-wheel test pilot who volunteers for an experiment in miniaturization – he will enter a capsule and then be shrunk down to a size of a molecule and injected into the body of a rabbit.  However, some bad guys break into the lab hell-bent on stealing the technology.  One scientist escapes with the the syringe containing miniature Tuck and his ship.  Running from the bad guys the scientist is shot and before his dying breath injects Tuck and the ship into a buttocks of Jack Putter (Martin Short) a hypochondriac who can hear Tuck’s voice inside his head.

The bond that Jack and Tuck form is kind of sweet as Jack maneuvers around inside Jack’s body and Jack comes to grips with what has happened.  Problem: How to get Tuck out of Jack’s body before his air runs out.  Well, that’s complicated because the part needed was stolen by the bad guys and the only person who can help is Tuck’s girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan) whom Jack has to convince of what has happened.

If all of this sounds overly complicated that’s because it is.  This is movie has a lot of ground to cover until all of its knots.  What I like best are the human elements.  Jack and Tuck’s friendship builds wonderfully even though they can’t actually speak face to face.  There are some tender moments in here between the characters, but what we really came to see were the visual effects and they are quite spectacular, so spectacular in fact that I wanted the movie stay inside Jack body so that I could see those wonderful sites, especially a brilliantly done scene in which Tuck visits Jack’s heart.  How does it look so real?  I have no clue, but I would believe it if someone told me that it was real footage from inside of a human body.

Of the performances, they are mostly standard.  Quaid’s performance echoes his hotshot pilot from The Right Stuff and Meg Ryan once again proves that there is no cuter element to the landscape of American film.  The villains are all cartoonish bad guys, right out of a comic book.  But the special quality here is the performance of Martin Short, an actor I have never really warmed up to, mainly because he’s never had a film role that allowed him to play a character.  The last time we saw him was in the miserable comedy The Three Amigos.  He has done his best work on television on “Saturday Night LIve” and “SCTV” where he is able to play an assortment of bizarro characters.  Here he’s kind of channeling Jerry Lewis in the panicky moments but he is able to calm down and his manic energy is paired with a guy who seems to be suffering from crippling loneliness.

I almost didn’t want to movie to resolve its plot because it has to jump through a lot of fiery hoops to get there.  The movie over-complicates itself with kidnappings, chases, bad guy, the whole mess.  I liked the movie when it was just about the people and just about those visuals inside the body.  For me, that’s the movie. 

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.