Thursday, July 7, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... INNERSPACE

Only now does it occur to me... that I would ever see character-acting legend and scene-stealing nutball Robert Picardo (TOTAL RECALL, THE WONDER YEARS) busting such savagely hip and creepy dance moves, and all in service of seducing America's Sweetheart, Meg Ryan!

Note: "The Invisible Lasso," an essential move in Picardo's dance arsenal.

I saw INNERSPACE on television as a child, and for whatever reason I did not remember much, beyond it being a comedic 1980s update of FANTASTIC VOYAGE wherein an experimental pilot (Dennis Quaid) is miniaturized and accidentally injected into the bloodstream of a hypochondriac (Martin Short).

Dennis Quaid embarks on his 'fantastic voyage' while eating a JELL-O pudding snack and doing some kind of Jack Nicholson/Harrison Ford pastiche.

Upon revisiting, I cannot emphasize enough how anarchic and bizarre a movie INNERSPACE is. Robert Picardo is just the tip of the iceberg––though I must admit that in his minor role as a silky-smooth international smuggler named "The Cowboy," he does his darnedest to steal the entire movie. Whether "Travis Bickling" with a blow dryer:

putting the moves on Meg Ryan:
wearing a Speedo and blasting a champagne cork at Martin Short:
or being kidnapped and impersonated by a rubberized (through science-fictioney means) Martin Short:

I guess I'm trying to tell you that it's a live action Looney Tunes episode, a relentless slice of sci-fi mayhem, and a work of good-natured batshittery. In other words, it's a Joe Dante film!

BEHOLD: A villainous henchman (Vernon Wells, "Bennett" from COMMANDO!) with more cyborg arm-appendage weapons than Chuck Connors in 99 AND 44/100% DEAD and "Doctor Claw" from INSPECTOR GADGET combined!

EXPERIENCE: Fiona Lewis (THE FURY, STRANGE INVADERS) as perhaps the most lascivious corporate scientist of all time!

ENJOY: Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) as a criminal mastermind with impeccable interior (and personal) design!

FIND CATHARSIS IN: Lewis and McCarthy shrunk to the size of children (or we could say "Good Guy Doll"-size) and handling absurdly-proportioned props!

GAZE UPON: 1980s New Wave nuttery and other optical illusions!

SEE: More terrifying rubbery faces than TOTAL RECALL!

WITNESS: A tearful Meg Ryan cab ride, made possible by none other than "That Guy" legend, Dick Miller!

LOOK AT: A Rance Howard cameo! Just look at it!

CONTEMPLATE: A world where Henry Gibson is your bitchy-but-well-meaning supermarket boss!

BE FACED WITH UNSETTLING MELANCHOLY: When the scientist who injects Martin Short (John Hora, Dante's cinematographer) is shot and killed at a mall by Vernon Wells' robo-assassin. As the life flows out of him, he is confronted with the startling image of mall mascots coming to his aid.

He fades and dies, scared and confused. This is probably a good example of what I mean when I say this film is anarchic––but it is emotionally grounded, unlike much of the contemporary absurdist comedy, where many jokes rely upon randomness or anti-humor for their effect. There is an order to this film––a cartoon-logic, if you will––but its anarchy supports the story (also see: PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, et al.), and it's nothing if not well earned.

I feel as if I've barely scratched the surface of this strange beast. Now, go forth, and rent INNERSPACE!

––Sean Gill

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