Widowed Frank (Bill Murray) works in a zoo, a job which at least impresses his daughter Shane (Elena Franklin). What doesn't impress her is his casual approach to his health, an example of which is the way he is happy to eat any old junk as long as it's not a vegetable. This lunchtime, he and his daughter are admiring the ape house while Frank snacks, but as he is about to munch on a boiled egg, a chimp snatches it away from him and shoves it in his mouth. Frank is having none of this and fights to retrieve the egg, which ends up on the ground. Claiming that you're allowed to eat anything dropped as long as no more than ten seconds have gone by, he pops it in his mouth - a big mistake...
The Farrelly brothers making a kids' film? Well, sort of, as certainly Osmosis Jones looked to be aimed at children, but their trademark disgusting humour, as well as their trademark sentimentality, was present and correct, so presumably all ages could apply to be entertained. The project was over halfway animated, with celebrity voices bringing life to the central gimmick: that we saw what was happening in Frank's body on a microscopic level, with little white blood cells and germs and the like zooming about in hyperkinetic style.
Scripted by Marc Hyman, the film is undeniably eye-catching, but not so, erm, ear-catching, resembling as it does a public information cartoon stretched out to ninety minutes. If you ever had to sit through a "Hey kids! Education can be fun!" animation at school, then you may be taken back to those days watching this, learning about how the body combats a virus invasion through the medium of comedy. Not that it's especially funny, but there's a lot of effort that has clearly gone into enlivening what could have been a dry tract on common medical issues.
So we found out about why we sneeze, how cold medicine works and so forth, while the real plot about a potentially deadly disease has entered Frank via the contaminated egg. This is called Thrax (short for anthrax, one presumes) and is voiced by Laurence Fishburne, but he's not going to be allowed to ride roughshod over the defences. Our hero is a white blood cell called Osmosis Jones, voiced by Chris Rock, and being part of those defences is set up to be a cop, complete with a difficult chief and patrol car to drive around the veins and arteries.
Jones is assigned to team up with the cold capsule Frank has swallowed, called Drix (David Hyde Pierce), a bulky pill of action who is cherry flavoured and can combat the flu-like symptoms that Thrax is bringing out. What the film takes the form of is one of those eighties buddy movies, complete with action sequences, bickering between the two lawmen and a final admittance that they like each other really. Outside the body, slobbish Frank struggles with the relationship with his daughter who doesn't want to lose him as well, and a too contrived streak of sickly emotion intrudes: there's too much at stake for what is supposed to be a lightly humorous investigation of the body. Yes, there are the fart jokes and references to the least lovely functions, but we didn't need to see Shane nearly orphaned to force us to engage with our own wellbeing, did we? One dreads to think what all that finger wagging is doing to their hands. Music by Randy Edelman and Money Mark.