Thursday, September 20, 2012

Random 90's Animation Month: "Osmosis Jones" (2001)

Oh dear...

If I am not mistaken, "Osmosis Jones" is the only DVD for a Farrelly Brothers movie that allows fans to skip right to the gross-out jokes (that's what the second option is in the above screenshot).  I should have taken this as a kind of a warning, but we'll address that in due time.

Pity the studio executive.  (Stay with me here.)  This poor creature never knows what movies will be huge hits, and which ones will be colossal flops.  To wit, "There's Something About Mary".  In 1998, nobody expected this weird little B-movie from the Farrellys to be the massive sleeper hit it quickly became.  But indeed, "Mary" became the kind of surprise hit that both changes the game and briefly ruins any future films from the same genre/format (although some of them ruin that genre/format seemingly forever).  There were a LOT of romantic comedies with jarring grossout humor in them for a long time after "Mary".

Let's go on a little tangent about grossout humor.  Now, as I grow older, I find myself becoming more and more sensitive to -and this is a very scientific term here- gross sh*t.  As with "We're Back!", I found myself desperately running for a beer during several scenes in "Osmosis Jones", but for entirely different reasons.  I'll say it right now: if you do not like grossout humor, then today's movie is going to be the worst kind of endurance test.

Back to your friend and mine, the studio executive.  Because "There's Something About Mary" was such a huge surprise hit, you can see where the exec would think, "Oh yeah!  You know what would be an amazing idea?  Let's let the Farrelly brothers direct an animated film!  Our animation studio is pretty dead in the water anyway, so why not let them do whatever they want with it?  It's such a perfect idea, it can't fail!  I think it's the best plan I've ever heard in my life!"

"Osmosis Jones" turned out to be one of the most spectacular bombs in the history of animated films, losing nearly sixty-two million dollars in it's theatrical run.  It was the last significant gasp of the Warner Bros. theatrical animation studio, and therefore was a hell of a note for them to go out on.  It should be noted that in one of the two episodes of "The Rotoscopers" about "The Iron Giant" (tragically, I forget which), it was revealed that Warner Bros. theatrical animation was essentially left to it's own devices and the filmmakers could basically do whatever they wanted.  This does help explain why "Iron Giant" and "Osmosis Jones" are the way they are, though essentially opposite sides of the same coin.

Because what we have here in "Osmosis Jones" is the Farrellys at their most uninhibited.  I remember enjoying this movie the first time I saw it, as a stupid teenager who was distracted by the gorgeous animation and who still thought gross sh*t was funny instead of repulsive.  As an adult... Oh God, Oh GOD, oh God.  I didn't recall this movie being so... graphic.  My good God, that scene with the toenail...  That other scene with the oysters...  That F**KING scene with the pimple...

Here I was watching this movie in the afternoon, and doesn't my family ask me, "Hey, honey, you want to go out to the seafood restaurant for dinner later?"
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

But to be fair, nearly all the really horrible gross-out scenes are in the live-action bits and perhaps it's time to talk about the very odd format of this movie.  This is the story of a man ruining his life and breaking his annoying and unlikeable daughter's heart -- and well over half of it is told from the point of view of his anthropomorphized immune system.  (This setting was evidently chosen to give the Farrellys the greatest opportunity ever for what the rating disclaimer describes as "body humor".)  Overall, the live-action scenes are annoying, nauseating, and distracting.  Any time the movie switches back to them is jarring as f**k, especially towards the end, so let's ignore them entirely for the rest of the review.  How's the animation?

It's beautiful.  Well, very close to beautiful at any rate, because even disgusting things can be beautiful.  The production design and effects are very imaginative.  Michel Gagne was involved here and his mad genius is all over the place.  The character animation is energetic and I love how they aren't afraid to showcase just how weird the characters are.  "Jones" has a hidden gem of a villain character, and overall it looks like the artists had an awful lot of fun working on this.  It's as if they knew that this was going to be their last hurrah, so they went all out.

Of course, to see all this wonderful and inventive animation, you have to endure the disgusting live-action portions.  And also, this scene right here:

The 90's!

Yup, you guessed right.  Those are animated versions of Kid Rock and Joe C.  Their long musical number has, remarkably, aged worse than the "Ninja Rap" scene in the second "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie.  The 90's!

Extremely Delayed Addendum: It could be that I may have the history of this film entirely backwards; that it started as a fully-animated feature with live-action bookends (if even that), and the Farrellys were recruited to film more live-action to edit into the movie because of executive meddling reasons.  Thing is, I have no other evidence that such was the case aside from the comments in this AV Club review.

And so, our Strange Animated Films from the 1990's Made By Random Studios Marathon is in the rearview mirror.  It's been an amazing trip, and I'm glad you shared this magical adventure with me.  Now, with that said, a few very interesting '90's animated films are in the old Saved Queue, and who knows if or when they may pop up? 

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