Innerspace (1987) – Joe Dante

Joe Dante gives us a spin on Fantastic Voyage, with an underlying theme of believing in yourself with Innerspace, a sci-fi action comedy starring Martin Short, Dennis Quaid, and Meg Ryan. Featuring a score by Jerry Goldsmith, this film, when I first saw it, and now, remains a fun and entertaining film with its Academy Award winning special effects, laughs, and likable cast, which includes Dante regulars Robert Picardo, and Dick Miller.

Jack Putter (Short) is the Assistant Manager at a local Safeway, and a hypochondriac. And he’s about to go on the adventure of a lifetime, when he gets caught up in a top secret miniaturization project involving Tuck Pendleton (Quaid). It seems Tuck was supposed to be injected into a rabbit, but when the lab is attacked, a scientist escapes, and injects Jack with a syringe that contains Tuck and his pod.

Now, the villains, led by Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy), and Dr. Canker (Fiona Lewis), with their menacing henchman Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells) are after Jack, in an attempt to claim the computer chip in Tuck’s pod, with the one they stole from the lab.

Jack is aided by Tuck, who provides advice and stimulation from inside, and Tuck’s (ex?) girlfriend, and crack reporter, Lydia (Ryan).But there is the ticking clock of Tuck’s dwindling air supply…

Featuring incredible special effects, some quotable dialogue, and lots of in-jokes, if you know where to look for them, Dante’s film is still wonderfully enjoyable, and plunges me right back to the first time I saw it, and how I played the soundtrack over and over again (it was my first real introduction to Sam Cooke).

Quaid has that sly, smug charm, but we also know he’s treated Lydia poorly, and his drinking had a lot to do with it. We’re not sure if he realizes that by story’s end or not, but with what his future holds, perhaps he will be a little more responsible and aware.

Putter is the character that goes on the real arc though, realizing that he’s causing a lot of his own problems, and by film’s end has become the hero of his own story, building his self-confidence and belief in himself. Sure he may not get the girl, but for the first time, he seems really happy.

Short’s physical comedy is on display throughout the film, and is priceless and while goofy never seems to go completely over the top, it’s just zany enough. Which tends to fit in with the sensibilities of a Dante film.

It’s easily been about twenty years since I had seen this film, and sure some of it doesn’t stand up, there’s smoking everywhere, and some latent sexism, but damn, it’s still fun!

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