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Digital Media FX Review of Osmosis Jones
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine

Osmosis Jones is the most underrated animated movie of 2001, due in part to Warner Bros. inability to properly define the intended audience for the movie. It's a shame too, because the animation segments of Osmosis Jones are creative, original, interesting, and well executed. It's the live action portions, marketing, and movie trailers that fail Osmosis Jones, resulting in a disastrous box office run.

Perhaps reviewer Tom Maurstad of the Dallas Morning News put it best when he said, "This live-action/cartoon structure is intended to give Osmosis Jones an edgy kick. But instead it proves to be a boat anchor around the comedy's neck. That's because every time the film cuts back to the real world the fun just stops – reality as a bucket of cold water."


The Story

Osmosis Jones is the story of "the city of Frank" which is the inside of Frank's body. The movie toggles between live action (outside of Frank's body) and animation (inside of Frank's body). The "city of Frank" has its own government (and political feuds), police department, entertainment venues, etc. It literally is a city where good cells (i.e. cops) must fight viruses and the mayor must try to keep harmony while dealing with reelection headaches. One cop, named Osmosis Jones, is an independent thinker trying to make something of his life. While the story focuses on his adventure, it goes far beyond with the cast of supporting characters and sub plots.


The Great

The creativity in the animated segments of Osmosis Jones is top notch. Warner Bros. even allowed its logo to be tampered with to tie in closer with movie. The humorous puns also work well in Osmosis Jones. Take, for example, this exchange between two of the cops inside of Frank's body:

Older Cop: You got plans for the weekend, kid?

Younger Cop: Me and my girlfriend are going down to the Kidney's to see the Stones.

Older Cop: Good for you. They could pass any day now.

The animation segments, which were directed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito, are presented in an almost dreamlike organic form that really establishes the "city of Frank" as a unique environment. The animation is colorful, free flowing, and fun. You're only pulled out of the story when the movie pops back to the gross, boring, and uninspiring live action segments.

The great isn't limited just to the way the animation is presented. The art direction is also superb and executed with a style that enhances the overall look of the movie.

The soundtrack for Osmosis Jones (for the animated portions) is just as creative as the animation. The music has a unique "light but fun" flare that really enhanced the animated portions while effectively bringing the City of Frank to life.


The Average
The story, while interesting, doesn't take full advantage of the unique environment created for the film. You've seen the overall story concept in buddy cop movies (like Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour) and political presidential movies (like The American President). But even at average, the story in the animated segments is of "Oscar quality" when compared directly to the dull live action parts.

The Bad
The live action segments of Osmosis Jones literally kill the movie. Warner Bros. didn't help by focusing a good portion of its trailers on the gross live action parts while hyping that it was directed by "the Farrelly Brothers." Did they expect such promotions to drive family audiences to see the movie? Obviously not as Warner Bros. also tasseled over the movie's rating, first allowing it to maintain a PG-13 rating then deciding that it should be edited down to a PG rating. The marketing and the movie never could effectively decide who the audience was and as a result it didn't find an audience.

The other problem is that the live action characters are uninspiring and as a result you don't care for them. The best movies make you truly care about the characters in the film. For the live action parts, you can care less about what happens to Frank because he has been established as an uneducated slob that only cares about himself.

Conclusion
If you have not yet seen Osmosis Jones, I recommend that you rent the movie on video or DVD. Unfortunately there isn't a "play animated segments only" option on the DVD, so you'll have to endure the dull live action moments while waiting for the creative animation segments to once again pull you into the movie and story. But in this case waiting for the animation segments is worth it. In a year where Shrek and Monsters, Inc. dominated the news for their animation and creativity, Osmosis Jones got lost. It's a shame because the creativity level of Osmosis Jones is just as good, albeit different, as Monsters, Inc. and the animated storyline is interesting.

A lot of movies these day are uninspired and unoriginal. Hollywood seems to be stuck in a rut of making sequels or remakes. It's rare that something truly original and creative comes along. Osmosis Jones fills the role of being dull and uninspiring (live action segments) while being truly original, creative, and fun (the animated segments). The writing for the animated segments is very smart and intelligent.

Digital Media FX Magazine gives Osmosis Jones a 7.5 rating on a scale of 1 to 10. The film would have received a higher rating if it wasn't for the live action continually dragging it down.


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