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Innerspace (July 6/02)

Innerspace is just the sort of sci-fi comedy/adventure that's sorely missing from today's multiplexes. When it is attempted, it winds up looking something like the incredibly mediocre Clockstoppers. But Innerspace, released in 1987, strikes a perfect balance between the various genres it encompasses - turning it into one of the more entertaining sci-fi flicks out there.

Dennis Quaid stars as Tuck Pendleton, a disgraced soldier who's offered one last chance at redemption in the form of a top-secret government experiment. He's to be miniaturized to a microscopic size and injected into a rabbit (the reasoning behind the experiment is never made entirely clear). But, moments after being shrunk down, bad guys bust into the lab with the intent of stealing the two chips required for miniaturization (one of which just happens to be really, really tiny since it's with Tuck). A brave scientist grabs the syringe that's holding Pendleton and heads for the street, only to be chased by a sinister assassin with a robotic arm (played, without the expected over-the-top histrionics, by Commando's Vernon Wells). Needless to say, the scientist is shot and killed - but not before he injects Tuck into the nearest warm body, who just happens to be hypochondriac named Jack (played by Martin Short). Now, Tuck and Jack have to work together to try and get Tuck out of there while avoiding the various goons hot on their tail.

It's a pretty out-there premise, but it works, due to the enthusiasm of the actors and the lightning-fast pace. It's the kind of film that, provided you're willing to suspend your disbelief in a big way, is almost impossible to dislike. The two leads, Quaid and Short, have great chemistry together, which in itself makes the film worth watching. Quaid is perfect leading man fodder, and he's as charming as ever here. As for Short, Jerry Lewis to Quaid's Dean Martin, his physical antics never go too far; it's believable within the context of the movie and within the confines of this character.

Director Joe Dante keeps the pace brisk, and because the movie runs around two hours, that's really saying something. The structure of the film makes this possible, because it doesn't flow in quite the way you'd expect. The movie transpires in more of an episodic manner, with different chunks of plot cropping up every now and then. Example: an early portion of the film deals with Short's gradual acceptance of Quaid's presence in his body, while a sequence that comes later follows Short's attempt in passing himself off as a mysterious dealer named The Cowboy (played by Robert Picardo). It all comes together at the end, with an action sequence that features several plot strands being resolved at the same time (kind of like what George Lucas tends to do at the conclusion of most Star Wars movies).

Innerspace casually leaps from genre to genre, and it works beautifully here. The movie is pure entertainment, with plenty of gags and cameos that demand repeat viewings. But it all comes down to the two lead performances by Quaid and Short. They're fantastic, and it's easy enough to wish that they'd team up again.

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