Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Innerspace

Eighties movies run the gamut between "charmingly '80s" and "painfully '80s." Innerspace is kind of all over that gamut, which makes it a densely representative example of '80s cinema.

A thoroughly dopey sci-fi comedy, Innerspace stars Dennis Quaid (who I never realized was so leery) as a hotshot test pilot, shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the ass of a nerdy grocery-store clerk (Martin Short) via a series of improbable circumstances. Quaid establishes communication with Short, and their interactions (during their quest to figure out how to get Quaid out and un-shrunk) provide much of the film's amusement.

I'd seen this years ago, probably only once, and remembered so little that I began to wonder if I'd seen it at all. Then the half-size Kevin McCarthy scenes came along and I said to myself, Beavis-like, "Ooooohhh yeah, heh heh hm heh." These scenes would have been the highlight of this weird and uneven film were it not for the presence, in a non-trivial role, of ROBERT FRIGGIN' PICARDO (TV's "Infrequently-Named 'Doctor'" on Star Trek: Voyager and one of only two reasons to stick with that show, the other being Tim Russ as Tuvok).

And what a role it is. "The Cowboy," as a character, is undeniably racist, but Picardo makes it funny. If you like the Doctor, don't miss the Cowboy. Fair warning, though: you see him nearly naked.

And he's not the only familiar face for Trek fans: look for Dick Miller (the older of the two cops from DS9's "Past Tense" two-parter), well-cast as a cab driver, and the old guy from DS9's "Storyteller" (the one about the hologram village) as the guy in the bathroom during Short's talking-to-himself-with-predictable-consequences scene.

The main cast, though, deserve the most credit for keeping Innerspace from collapsing under the weight of its wacky concept, surprisingly meandering story, and evident effort at staying family-friendly. Quaid's character is likable despite being the embodiment of every 4th-grade boy's idea of what a "man" should be. Martin Short is great, overdoing his schtick only once or twice. The love interest character is also well-handled by a young, not-yet-overexposed Meg Ryan.

Still—the '80sness weighs heavily. Especially during the formulaic climax and denouement. But viewers with a fondness for fare like Gremlins or The Goonies will like Innerspace, and viewers whose tolerance for '80s cheese is limited to the likes of Big Trouble in Little China or Back to the Future should at least find it pleasant and diverting.

(Though if the phrase "metal clamp on the optic nerve" squicks you out, you'll find a few scenes a bit rough.)

Star Score: 3 out of 5

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