THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
When it was released in 1987, Joe Dante's Innerspace was not a big hit, making just under $26 million at the box office. Many people who saw the movie loved it, though. (That includes the 19-year-old me.) The intervening years have seen it go on to become a cult favorite. For that reason, Innerspace's August 4 arrival on Blu-Ray is a true cause for celebration.
In this variation on Fantastic Voyage, Dennis Quaid plays Tuck Pendleton, a drunken and disgraced Navy pilot. He volunteers for a risky scientific project in which he will be placed in a special pod, shrunken to microscopic size, and injected into a rabbit. Before the final part of this equation can be completed, the lab is attacked by a group seeking to steal the technology. The supervisor of the experiment escapes with the syringe and is chased to a nearby mall. Determined to keep Tuck safe (and away from malicious hands), he injects the needle into Jack Putter (Martin Short), a hypochondriac grocery store worker who just happens to be passing by. Tuck moves around inside Jack's system, eventually tapping into his eyes and ears to establish contact with his new host. Jack initially thinks he's possessed, but soon comes to accept what has happened. He vows to help Tuck get back to full size, with the assistance of the pilot's girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan).
Innerspace does a couple of things really well. First, it's a nifty science-fiction picture about a guy traveling around in another man's body. The special effects hold up nicely, convincingly selling the illusion that we're seeing Jack Putter from the inside. A clever screenplay finds ways to incorporate everything from Jack's heart to his stomach acid. The movie is also a terrific comedy. Jack is an extremely nervous individual – the last person who should be stuck dealing with this sort of predicament. Martin Short gets to do a lot of hilarious physical humor as his character deals with the implications (both mental and physical) of having a tiny man inside of him. Over the course of the story, Jack discovers bravery he never knew he was capable of, which makes him an engaging hero. Tuck, meanwhile, learns to be more mature.
Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee) is one of the few filmmakers who could pull all of this together, which he does with an appropriately light touch. Innerspace is a movie that sucks you in from the get-go, then keeps you hooked with the way it effortlessly moves from sci-fi to comedy to action, then back again. Even if it doesn't hit the highs of the very best '80s sci-fi comedies (Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, etc.), it serves up plenty of fun. And, even better, Innerspace looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray, which ensures that it will be enjoyed to its fullest capacity for a long time to come.
( 1/2 out of four)
There aren't a ton of goodies on this disc, but what's here is solid. Dante provides a lively, often funny audio commentary alongside Producer Michael Finnell, Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren, and actors Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo, who play some of the movie's bad guys. The stories they tell are fascinating. Martin Short, for instance, would often beg Dante for additional takes – in the voice of Katherine Hepburn. It is also revealed that veteran film critic Roger Ebert was utterly convinced by the special effects, incorrectly believing that real footage of the interior of a human body was being used. The effects team had to send him a fake red blood cell to prove otherwise. This commentary is compulsively listenable, and chock full of great information.
The original theatrical trailer is also present on the disc.
Even though one might reasonably wish there was some kind of retrospective documentary about the movie included, the important thing is that Innerspace is finally available on Blu-Ray. Whether you fell in love with it in the '80s or more recently, this is a disc you can proudly add to your collection.
Innerspace is rated PG for mild language, sexual content, and violence. The running time is 2 hours.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at Amazon.com!