"Innerspace" Holds Up Review

The most important thing for you right now is no excitement.

Rewatching movies from your childhood in high definition is a trip. Watching The NeverEnding Story (1984) for the first time in over twenty years, I remembered the images from the VHS we had and the emotions it used to conjure, but interpreted them very differently as an adult. In one very brief, completely immaterial moment Bastian pulls something like The Daily News off of the book and I vividly remember that image and the awe revealing the ancient cover of The NeverEnding Story. As an adult, seeing it in HD, the book looks silly, oversized, and crisp like an obvious prop. Then you see something like Innerspace (1987), another film from my later childhood that looks and sounds basically the same. I can't tell whether it "holds up" or not because I'm engrossed in the story, the comedy, and the realization that Martin Short was awesome and could have been more than the clown if anyone ever realized how to harness his boundless energy.

Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) is a Navy test pilot who was always too much of a screw up to become one of the best. He ruins his career, his relationship with Lydia (Meg Ryan), and gets himself on an experiment that nobody else wants. He's to be miniaturized inside of a submersable pod and put into the body of a bunny. Elsewhere in San Francisco, Jack Putter (Martin Short) is a paranoid hypochondriac who works at a supermarket and goes to the doctor. After Pendleton has been successfully miniaturized, a rival miniaturization outfit raids the lab and project lead, Dr. Wexler (John Hora), barely gets away with Pendleton stowed away in a syringe. Wexler, chased by the psychotic Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells), injects Pendleton right into Putter's ass before dying. A chase ensues. The evil capitalist Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) needs a chip off of Pendleton's pod, while Pendleton needs the other chip that Scrimshaw stole to reverse the miniaturization before his pod runs out of oxygen. Once Pendleton makes visual and audio contact with Putter, he knows he's going to need some help: Lydia.

Innerspace is pretty delightful. This is Dennis Quaid in his prime, oozing charisma and man's man charm. You can put the Quaid in a little pod for 90% of a movie and he's still the most dynamic character in the movie. That is, except against Martin Short who is by turns at his most normal and his most unhindered mania. Of all the Three Amigos, Short is the best actor, the funniest clown, and probably the best looking. It's sad that he seemed to get the fewest opportunities of the bunch. Meg Ryan is Meg Ryan as she is in everything except Courage Under Fire (1996). Director Joe Dante is completely invisible with respect to these performances, seeming to let them be at every opportunity.

Where Innerspace might have fallen down is in the special effects. They do and they don't. The work inside the body is unimpeachable. My biology teacher in 8th grade showed us this movie and she could do as much today without any student mockery. The pod barrels down the veins along with the many blood cells, trundles through Martin Short's ass fat cells, we get a close-up of the heart and the inner ear. Christopher Nolan couldn't do better, though Dante might have lingered a bit longer to magnify the majesty. Outside the body, the high definition does them no favors. One particular sequence involving atrocious, obvious puppetry is laughable. In fact, the childish physical comedy in that sequence is successfully masked by the pathetic practical effects. But by that point in the film, I was thoroughly entertained and willing to forgive a great deal. The writers, Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser, balanced the verbal and physical comedy so well that the slightly tedious closing sequence even got some nodding approval.

Bonus features

Commentary track (with Dante, producer Michael Finnell, and two of the actors they could scrounge up) and a trailer.

"Innerspace" is on sale August 4, 2015 and is rated PG. Comedy. Directed by Joe Dante. Written by Jeffrey Boam, Chip Proser. Starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan.

Sep
06
2015
Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.

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