The 90s and early 2000s were a strange era for Warner Bros Animation. While they began making theatrical films in the mid-90s wanting to compete with Walt Disney Animation Studios during their famous Disney Renaissance, most of their films didn't have any commercial impact apart from "Space Jam" and most of their films including amazing animated films like "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm", "Cats Don't Dance", and "The Iron Giant" all bombed horribly at the box office and in 2003, they finally threw in the towel after "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" flopped at the box office and didn't make another in house animated film for eleven years. One of the last films they put out before they closed was "Osmosis Jones" in 2001 about a white blood cell taking down a virus in the human body and it is a strange film. On one hand, there's a lot of clever and fun stuff in the film but on the other hand, it's hampered by some really bad elements that overall make this film a mixed bag. It's certainly a unique film, I'll give it that but it's certainly not without its fault.
Inside the body of an unhealthy man named Frank (Bill Murray), a white blood cell cop named Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock) has been trying to prove his worth to the city of Frank after getting demoted due to an incident from years ago. One day, Frank eats a contaminated egg that allows a virus named Thraxx (Lawrence Fishburne) to enter him. When the mayor of the city, Mayor Flemming (William Shatner) notices Frank is getting slightly ill, he gets him to take a cold pill named Drixenol (David Hyde Pierce) and gets the pill to team up with Ozzy to defeat what he thinks is an average cold. Little do Ozzy and Drix know that Thraxx is planning a bigger plan than a simple illness and it's a race to save the city of Frank before it becomes fatal.
The first time I saw this film was in a health class back in middle school and it was a film that I thought was very strange and mediocre despite some interesting stuff in it. Watching the film again over seven years later, my opinion mostly still stands. It's a really uneven film and I do think it could've worked had it had some better touches applied to it. I should mention that the film is a hybrid with the inside of the body being animated and directed by animators Tom Sito and Piet Kroon while the outside of the body was in live-action directed by the Farrelly Brothers who are best known for raunchy comedies of the 90s like "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary". The reason I bring this up is while doing research on the film, I did discover that both parts of the film were made separately with the animated stuff being made on schedule and on time while the live-action scenes had trouble getting off the ground and it shows. The two sides feel so unbalanced together and it ends up creating a story that had the potential to be good but falls exceptionally flat. The animated portion of the story is actually not that bad. The idea of making a buddy cop film inside the human body with the police as white blood cells and a virus as the criminals is clever and fun and I do think the film does take a lot of ideas to advantage. For example, several parts of the body are portrayed like a sweaty armpit being portrayed as a sauna and the stomach almost like a transportation hub like an airport. One of my favorite scenes involves Ozzy and Drix going into a zit which is a nightclub in this universe to try to bust in on Thraxx's plan and it's really clever and funny. Even small little puns and health jokes are all over the film and most of them are clever. Not every joke works though as some of the humor is gross-out and toilet humor and it's exceptionally unfunny. The film does go through a bit of tropes from Ozzy's backstory and the characters being fired but teaming up before the climax, but it didn't bother me too much. What did bother me though was the live-action framing which is ultimately the film's fatal flaw. The segments directed by the Farrelly Brothers are simply dreadful as they feel very last minute and are executed rather poorly. The editing especially is what really hampers the film as it's all over the place with the film bouncing back and forth between the animated segments and the live-action segments like a pinball machine and it feels so unnatural which is strange given that one of the editors, Stephen Schaffer, is a terrific editor considering after the film, he went to work at Pixar and edited some of their best-animated films like both of "The Incredibles" films and "Wall-E". I do want to briefly talk about the animation in the film because it's really good. The backgrounds are very creative with their incredible designs with all the strange curves and unique shapes and I also love the character animation as well as all the characters have such unique looks to them and stand out, especially Drix who is a computer-animated character while the other characters in the body are traditionally animated. The thing I love the most about the animation in the film though is easily the effects animation which is simply top-notch. From the way some elements move like saliva and mucus, it really has such a unique style to it. As far as the characters go, they're also a mixed bag like the story due to the live-action segments. The animated characters are mostly fun as I do like Oxxy and Drix as the duo with Ozzy being the wisecracker and Drix being the stoic cop and they really work due to Chris Rock's and David Hyde Pierce's vocal performance. The standout character in the film though is easily the villain Thraxx. This is such a terrific villain with a top-notch design, a lot of memorable moments, and pure menace behind him as he manages to get a lot of the dirty work he does by himself. You can tell that Lawrence Fishburne was having a ball with this performance and it shows because this character is great. I do think William Shatner was also funny as the mayor as he had some fun moments. I do think that his assistant Leah, played by Brandy, should've had more development though since her character was mostly stale and she and Ozzy didn't have much chemistry together. As for the characters in the live-action segments, that's another story. These characters are very awkward and don't have a lot of depth, mostly because their acting is not very good. I normally love Bill Murray, but his performance as Frank is pretty bad as he's clearly phoning in his performance for a paycheck while just waiting to get back onto the set of "The Royal Tenenbaums". There's not much to say about his character other than he's a fat slob and that's about it while the other characters aren't really worth talking about since they barely serve a purpose in the film.
All in all, "Osmosis Jones" is a messy film. While the story, animation, and characters in the animated segment are all mostly good with only a handful of characters needing improvement, they are hampered down by terrible live-action scenes that are not well made or acted. This is a film that had the potential to be a fun film, but it was sadly bogged down by those scenes and it's really a shame because the animated stuff is really good. If the live-action scenes had been thrown out or redone, I think it could've been a decent animated film, but overall the film is simply mediocre. It's certainly not a deadly virus, but it sadly does feel ail.