It's a small world after all.
Ah, the '80s. What a magical, beautiful time. It was a time of decadence and excess. It was a time when a tramp like Jessica Hahn could become a celebrity and singers like Flock of Seagulls could have a hit on the radio. Men had high hair and women wore fishnets. The "cheese factor" was at an all-time high with things like Alf, Pac-Man, and Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. And a little known guy who I like to call "Mr. Spielberg" started having hit after hit after hit at the movies. In 1987, director Joe Dante (Piranha, Gremlins) brought us the Steven Spielberg produced sci-fi adventure comedy Innerspace, a movie that proves good things can come in small packages! Starring Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Martin Short (Father of the Bride), Meg Ryan (Kate and Leopold), and Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Innerspace is now on DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
The government is always working on some top secret project that its citizens are unaware of. This time around the experiment involves hotheaded Navy pilot Tuck Pendleton (Quaid) and his ship being miniaturized to the size of a pin head and injected into a rabbit! But something goes terribly wrong when Tuck is accidentally injected into the body of Jack Putter (Short), a hypochondriac grocery store clerk who is now starting to hear voices…and that voice is Tuck! The good news is that Tuck can be restored via a microchip at the lab. The bad news is that Tuck has a limited supply of oxygen in his ship, and a group of bad guys (led by the snarling Kevin McCarthy) who want the miniaturization technology are in hot pursuit and will do anything—including kill—to get it! Now it's up to Jack Putter and Tuck's cute girlfriend (Ryan) to figure out a way to get Tuck out of Jack's body and back to his normal self!
Joe Dante is one of those guys who just doesn't get enough credit. His films have often been described as "uneven" or "mediocre." I completely disagree. While I won't deny that Dante's movies aren't perfect, I have to contest that his films always feature something weird, strange and wondrous—his imagination cup often runneth over. Take a look at some of Dante's past films: Gremlins, The Howling, The 'Burbs, Small Soldiers…while many of these may not be cinema classics, each contain a lot of fun, exciting themes and odd, interesting characters.
Such is the case with Dante's Innerspace. The movie stars Martin Short as a geek and Dennis Quaid as a hunk. Okay, not much of a stretch there. What is a stretch is the way the film puts the old "buddy film" theme on its ear; instead of having the two companions racing against time side-by-side, Dante has thrown them together—literally! Watching Short spasm over hearing Quaid's voice throughout his body is one of those rare events that shouldn't be funny but is: when Short shoots up and yells "I'm possessed!" in a doctor's waiting room, you know you're in for a good time. Before Innerspace, Martin Short's only big movie gig was with Chevy Chase (I don't care what you say, he's still funny) and Steve Martin in the John Landis spoof Three Amigos! While Innerspace may not have made him an A-list star, it certainly put him on the map. A very young Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid (who met on the set and subsequently married, then divorced) are a cute couple, though Ryan's hair leaves much to be desired (was it a holdover from her previous film Armed and Dangerous?). Dennis Quaid gives off just enough cocky energy to make Tuck likable and sleazy at the same time. Hey, at least he wasn't played by a Baldwin. The ever-dependable Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo fare well in supporting roles as the main heavy and a cowboy who gets bound and gagged in a bathtub (lucky him).
The special effects are the real draw here, and for 1987 they look pretty darn good. Innerspace was obviously inspired by the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, a similar movie that featured people being shrunk and thrust inside a human torso. Whereas that film featured some obvious blue screen shots, Innerspace dazzles with a lot of exciting effects that really do look real. Tuck's ship speeds around Jack's veins, arteries, and innards like it was heading up the Kennedy at rush hour (complete with red blood cells coming the other direction). Of course, if Innerspace had been made today the filmmakers would have gone the tragically dirty route. I imagine that this is how the studio executive meeting would have gone:
Studio Executive #1: "We're gonna make a movie about a guy in a pod who gets shrunk down and injected inside Martin Short!" (or, in 2002, maybe Adam Sandler).
Studio Executive #2: "Hey, that's a great idea! Let's have the pod accidentally zip though the guy's intestines and come out his bung hole!"
Studio Executive #1: "Haha! Bob, you're a genius! Or better yet, we can have a bunch of teens drink a cup of sperm, throw up on an old lady, then accidentally stumble into a vat of their own urine!"
Studio Executive #2: "What does that have to do with anything?"
Studio Executive #1: "Nothing. We just thought it would be funny to see."
Studio Executive #2: (long pause) "That's genius!"
I think we should all take a few moments and thank the good Lord above that Innerspace wasn't made in 2002.
For all its bravado special effects and cute performances, Innerspace is really a fluffy, somewhat forgettable film. This isn't to say that it isn't entertaining or fun—it's just that some movies disappear from mind just as soon as they've disappeared from your TV screen. I recommend Innerspace as a nostalgic piece of entertainment, or for parents with young kids (over the age of about 12). Martin Short is funny, Dennis Quaid is charming, and the special effects are entertaining. And as a bonus there ain't one gag featuring Short's intestines.
Innerspace is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner has done a commendable job of making sure this print appears solid and very bright. The colors all have an appealingly bright feel while the black levels are well saturated and very dark. Flesh tones are natural while the print features nary a hint of edge enhancement, grain, or dirt. While I did find a bit of softness in a few shots, overall this very attractive image should please fans of the film.
The soundtrack is presented in a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix (as well as Dolby Stereo) in English. The new 5.1 mix is surprisingly good, utilizing a vast array of directional effects during many scenes and creating a full and even sound field. While this isn't going to go down in history as one of the most expansive soundtracks ever produced, it certainly does the job and does it well. Also included on this disc is a French Dolby Mono soundtrack, a Dolby Surround Stereo mix in Japanese, plus English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Bahasa subtitles.
Since Innerspace isn't a particularly popular movie from the 1980s, it's not much of a shock to find only a few small, tiny, itsy bitsy, teeny weenie…well, you get the idea…extra features available on this disc. The meatiest of these supplements is a commentary track by director Joe Dante, visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, producer Michael Finnell and co-stars Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo. This is a very genial, entertaining commentary which features everyone just kicking back and reminiscing about their days on the production. Some of the stories are fairly engaging (how the group achieved the Martin Short transformation is neat) and there are a lot of laughs to be found. A recommended listen if you have the time.
Rounding out the extras are some cast film highlights, a list of the film's awards and a theatrical trailer for the film.
I was surprised to find I liked Innerspace as much as I did. Warner's work on this disc is probably better than most fans expected. And if you can read this you don't need glasses.
Innerspace is free to go and fly around your pituitary gland! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track by Director Joe Dante, Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren, Producer Michael Finnell, and Co-Stars Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo
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