Joe Dante delights with this brilliant 1980s comedy that mixes fantasy and science-fiction with the talents of Martin Short and Dennis Quaid.
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Jeffrey Boam
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Martin Short and Meg Ryan
Released: 1987 / Genre: Science-fiction/Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB
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Joe Dante’s delightful special-effects extravaganza Innerspace is one of a series of Steven Spielberg-produced adventure films released during the 1980s. These films, such as Richard Donner’s The Goonies and Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future, saw Spielberg’s innocent, childlike sense of the fantastic through the eyes of Hollywood’s most talented up-and-coming filmmakers.
Innerspace and films like it were products of the period. Thanks to advances in computer generated imagery, much of it coming from George Lucas’ company Industrial Light and Magic which was developed to produce the Star Wars movies, Hollywood was seeking out stories that could go beyond the boundaries of our world. Now the technology was in place to realise these swashbuckling adventures on-screen with an authenticity not witnesses before. But with outer space and the depths of the ocean ticked off, where else was there to go. The answer – inside a human being. And through the powers of miniaturisation – a popular theme that saw the production of the box office hit Honey, I Shrunk The Kids – film could explore a new world that was, ironically, familiar to us all.
Innerspace sees Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid), an ace US Navy pilot with a penchant for alcohol and barroom brawling, put himself forward for an experiment in miniaturisation. The experiment will see him enter a life support capsule which will then be miniaturised and injected into a laboratory rabbit for internal tests. But during the experiment the laboratory is raided by a group working for the unscrupulous Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy) who wants the technology for himself. One of the scientists manages to escape with Tuck’s miniaturised capsule in a hypodermic needle. Eventually getting to the local mall, he is shot by one of Scrimshaw’s henchman but not before injecting Tuck into hypochondriac supermarket worker Jack Putter (Martin Short).
Attaching devices to Jack’s eyes and ears, Tuck is able to see what Jack sees and also talk to the man he is now inside. Eventually getting Jack to understand their predicament, which is difficult at first since Jack thinks the voice in his head is a clear indication that he is possessed, the pair set out to find the much-needed miniaturisation microchip that will allow Tuck to return to his former size before his oxygen supplies run out.
Innerspace mixes science-fiction, a little horror and comedy to great effect. It is a trait of the director seen so successfully in his horror-comedies Gremlins and The ‘Burbs, where Dante is able to seamlessly blend light and dark. The film is very funny at times (not least when Jack feels he has an inner strength thanks to Tuck inhabiting his body, which lead to some triumphant duels with the bad guys) while it thrills the senses with several brilliant action sequences both in and out of Jack’s body. Jack’s escape from a meat truck is a highlight of his character’s rise to prominence, while Tuck has to battle Scrimshaw’s evil henchman who is miniaturised and sent into Jack’s body to eliminate the competition.
The special-effects are also enthralling as this fantastic voyage sets up the human body as a dramatic, otherworldly and dangerous place (witness the battle to escape Jack’s stomach acid) while giving it a realistic familiarity that highlights the power and the beauty of the human body (there’s a lovely moment when Tuck finds out his on-off girlfriend is pregnant).
But ultimately it is Dennis Quaid and Martin Short who make the film work so successfully. They have a great chemistry on-screen as this unusual friendship blossoms. Both have a talent for comedy – Short’s outlandish antics complement the dry sarcasm of Quaid. Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser’s script also allows the two characters to grow. Short’s neurosis and hypochondria gradually diminishes as the voice in his head builds his confidence, while Quaid learns the value of his relationship to Lydia (Meg Ryan).
Innerspace is therefore a very accomplished science-fiction comedy that ticks all the right boxes. As well as featuring some wonderful special-effects, its two leads – Dennis Quaid and Martin Short – have a great chemistry together. Funny, scary, awe-inspiring and inspirational, this Steven Spielberg-produced film is one the director would have been proud of making himself.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews