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Joe Dante
Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan, Kevin McCarthy
Chip Proser, Jeffrey Boam

An Adventure of Incredible Proportions
Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Japanese Dolby Surround
French Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Bahasa

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/9/2002

• Audio Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell, Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren, and Actors Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo
• Cast Film Highlights
• Awards
• Trailer


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Innerspace (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Occasionally films decide to investigate their characters from the inside. No, I donít mean graphic porn flicks. Instead, I refer to movies that find a way to give us a look at our innards.

Probably the most famous film in this genre is 1966ís Fantastic Voyage. The Disney theme parks also offer a ride called ďBody WarsĒ, and it reminds me of Voyage since both include sexy female protagonists in tight clothes. Vintage Raquel Welch in a bodysuit or Elisabeth Shue in similar garb? Thatís a tough call!

For regular theatrical release, we hadnít seen a prominent film of this sort for quite a while until 2001ís partially animated Osmosis Jones. That flick stands out from the others since it doesnít feature a miniaturized human who enters a different body. Instead, its protagonists are various natural inhabitants of people - such as white blood cells and germs - and also a cold capsule. In that way, Jones more closely resembles another Disney attraction - ďCranium CommandĒ - than it does Voyage or ďBody WarsĒ.

Off the top of my head, the only other film in this vein that I can recall is 1987ís Innerspace. Although it sadly omits a sexy female scientist in a clingy bodysuit, Innerspace otherwise follows along the Voyage model. However, Innerspace diverges from that form in that it tries to combine comedy and adventure.

Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) seems to have left his best years as a test pilot behind him. While younger jocks take his place, he gets drunk a lot and generally embarrasses himself and his girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan), a newspaper reporter who dumps him at the start of the film. Tuck takes a job as part of a daring miniaturization experiment. If it works, Tuck and the pod heíll pilot will shrink down to microscopic size and enter the bloodstream of a test bunny. Tuck thinks this wonít succeed, but he seems happy to take the paycheck.

Of course, it does work, but matters quickly go awry. Represented by henchman Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells), a nasty dude named Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) seeks the technology for his own ends. Head scientist Ozzie Wexler (John Hora) scrambles to keep tiny Tuck away from the baddies, and as a last resort, he injects Tuck into random passerby Jack Putter (Martin Short).

Hypochondriac Jack immediately fears that heís lost his mental balance, but Tuck eventually convinces him of the reality of the situation. The two bond as Tuck tries to get out of Jack and also make sure the villains donít gain control of the technology. Eventually a mercenary named the Cowboy (Robert Picardo) becomes involved, and Tuck makes Jack recruit Lydia for help, although they donít reveal the facts of the matter.

Innerspace definitely attempts a combination of action and comedy, and it does reasonably well in both regards. However, I probably prefer the comedic bits, if just because Iíve always liked Short. An alumnus of the wonderful SCTV program, he helps make Jackís idiosyncrasies come to life. Short takes some not-so-hot material and transforms it into something enjoyable. Other cast members land some comic moments as well, but most of the jocularity falls on Shortís shoulders, and it manages that burden nicely.

As for the action pieces, they also work pretty well, though the movie doesnít seem able to reach its full potential. I suppose part of this stems from the dual focus. For most films of this genre, the adventure takes place inside the body, as the teeny folks fight off all sorts of natural occurrences. However, Innerspace adds more of an emphasis on the outside world. Tuck doesnít experience many direct threats inside Jack; instead, most of the action stems from the attempts of Scrimshaw and his associates to nab Jack and Tuck. These scenes usually work fine - Jackís escape from the refrigerated truck seems especially good - but the split perspective means that the movie occasionally loses its focus.

Innerspace also takes too long to get going. After the filmmakers establish the various characters, we spend an awful lot of time in the lab as they run through different procedures. This quickly gets old and wears out its welcome. Those scenes could have been cut substantially and still worked, and this would have improved the pacing.

One minor oddity relates to the casting of Quaid. As noted in the DVDís audio commentary, the filmmakers originally planned to use an older actor to play Tuck. This makes sense; heís supposed to be over-the-hill, which seems strange for a character played by the then-33-year-old Quaid. The actor pulls off the role with enough charm and life to make the point moot, but it does seem confusing.

Overall, however, I think Innerspace offers a reasonably enjoyable experience. I canít call it a classic, as far too much of the film falls flat for it to seem all that strong. Nonetheless, it provides a decent piece of action comedy that works pretty well.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B / Bonus C+

Innerspace appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Warner Bros. seem to do a good job with catalog DVDs of Meg Ryan titles, for just like Joe vs. the Volcano, Innerspace offered a solid visual experience.

Sharpness looked consistently terrific. The picture always remained detailed and accurate. I saw virtually no signs of softness or fuzziness during this distinct image. Jagged edges and moirť effects caused no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I detected a few specks but nothing substantial marred the presentation.

Colors came across well. The movie boasted a natural and lively palette, and the DVD replicated these tones well. The hues seemed accurate and distinct, and they showed no issues related to noise, bleeding or other concerns. Black levels seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but never overly opaque. Ultimately, Innerspace provided a very fine picture that lacked any significant concerns.

While not quite as strong as the image, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Innerspace seemed fine. Most of the audio remained located in the forward spectrum, which offered a nice sense of environment. Music displayed fine stereo imaging, and the effects added a good feeling of atmosphere. During chase sequences, elements moved cleanly around the domain, and they blended together well. The shots of Tuck while inside Jack provided the best auditory moments, as they created an involving ambience from this unusual point of view. The surrounds didnít play a huge role in the film, but they added some useful information at times.

Audio quality seemed good but somewhat dated. Speech came across as generally crisp and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music fared best, as Jerry Goldsmithís score appeared reasonably bright and vivid. Highs were accurate and clear, and bass response sounded pretty rich. Effects demonstrated clean high-end but lost something during scenes that could benefit from some bass. Jackís heart offered a nice thump, but otherwise most of the effects sounded a little flat and lifeless. Nonetheless, Innerspace offered a pretty good soundtrack given the age of the material.

Note that Innerspace includes more subtitle languages than any other DVD I can recall. In addition to the traditional English, French and Spanish, we find the not infrequent Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai. Finally, Innerspace tosses in a Bahasa subtitle track! Frankly, Iíd never even heard of that language.

Though not a special edition, the DVD of Innerspace tosses in a few extras. Most useful is the audio commentary with director Joe Dante, producer Michael Finnell, visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, and actors Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo. All five were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track, although Picardo didnít show up until the midway point, which is when his character enters the film. McCarthy also doesnít appear in the first half or so of the movie, but he sat with the others the whole time anyway, even though he didnít say anything until his character came on-screen.

Actually, even then, McCarthy offered very little to the commentary. Dante dominated the piece, and Finnell also contributed a lot of information. Picardo added the occasional humorous comment, and Muren occasionally provided a little bit more info about his work, but frankly, the track would have worked as well with just Dante and Finnell.

I donít offer that remark as a complaint, for those men gave us a lot of very good information. They covered the genesis of the project and talked about all manner of production details. They discussed the cast, the effects, story points, and various facets of the shoot. Although a few empty spaces occurred, for the most part the chat remained lively and entertaining. Overall, I found this to provide a nicely chatty and compelling piece.

In addition, a few minor bits appear. Within the Cast and Crew area we get filmographies for director Joe Dante, writer Jeffrey Boam, and actors Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. Presented anamorphic 1.85:1, we get the filmís trailer 1.85:1, and the Awards page mentions that Bill George, Harley Jessup, Dennis Muren and Kenneth Smith won the Oscar for Best Effects/Visual Effects.

In my opinion, Innerspace offers one of those films that largely entertains me but fails to make much of an impression upon me. The movie provides acceptable levels of fun and adventure, but something about it seems less than spectacular. I like the flick but donít consider it to be anything special. The DVD features excellent picture quality along with good sound and an enjoyable audio commentary. I donít like Innerspace enough to provide a glowing recommendation, but if it sounds like your cup of tea, Iíd recommend that you give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8666 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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