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Osmosis Jones

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Warner Bros. is billing Osmosis Jones as an "infectious comedy," but I must have had my shots, because I was more or less immune to its sense of humor. I liked the premise, though. Combining live-action and animation, the movie alternates scenes of Bill Murray experiencing various body functions ' yawning, sneezing and the inevitable farting ' with cartoon versions of the same functions as seen from inside the body. On the outside, Murray's a zoo employee named Frank who, to put it mildly, has let himself go. (He's the one who belongs in a cage.) On the inside, he's a vast metropolis stocked with puns à la Fred Flintstone's hometown, Bedrock. And so, instead of a white blood cell, we get Osmosis Jones, a rogue cop voiced by Chris Rock. "Nice genes!" Osmosis exclaims while eyeballing a DNA centerfold. It's that kind of humor.

It's also gross-out humor, for what is the body if not a teeming vat of fluids, solids and gasses? Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the live-action sequences are pretty lame, but there are a couple of moments that, out of sheer audacity, will probably make it into the career-highlight reel, as when the contents of a pimple on Murray's forehead wind up on Molly Shannon's lower lip. Remember the non-bodily-fluids parts of There's Something About Mary? The Farrellys really need to clean up their act, if only as a way of scraping the crud off their funny bones. Murray, who bowled one of the few strikes in the Farrelly brothers' Kingpin, is given little to do here other than scratch his butt, and he's got that look in his eyes that suggests he's already cashed his paycheck. Imagine Homer Simpson without the fierce devotion to doughnuts. That's Frank.

But then there's the City of Frank, presided over by Mayor Phlegmming, whom William Shatner endows with just the right phlegmatic quality. Hizzoner has allowed so much corruption to eat away at Frank's insides that nobody notices the arrival of a lethal virus named Thrax (Laurence Fishburne, in fine voice). Nobody except Osmosis Jones and his new partner, Drix, a time-release cold capsule brought to vocal life by David Hyde Pierce. That Pierce is able to score laughs off Marc Hyman's weak script must be a tribute to his post-nasal-drip genius, for Rock comes up largely empty-handed. I wonder whether the movie's target audience ' kids of all ages ' will even notice, though. Osmosis Jones takes us on a Fantastic Voyage through the body's nether regions. It's for people who want to get their bowels in an uproar.

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