Howdy, Tor.com! The MRGN is back, with a big fave of the Butler Sisters: 1987’s Innerspace! Action! Adventure! Theistic hysteria! The funniest depiction of bodily fluids in cinema history! Yay!
Previous entries can be found here. Please note that as with all films covered on the Nostalgia Rewatch, this post will be rife with spoilers for the film.
And now, the post!
KATE: It was “Oklahoma toy-a”.
LIZ: No, it was “Oklahoma tie-ya”.
If you have no idea what the hell my sisters are arguing about here, well, I wouldn’t be surprised. But if you do, you’ve almost certainly seen 1987’s science fiction comedy Innerspace, a classic tale of “guy loses girl, guy gets miniaturized and injected into other guy’s ass. Hijinks ensue.”
(Hilariously, the Netflix subtitles do not attempt to translate his “I just drank a shot of Southern Comfort” noise, but for the record, it was “tie-ya”. ELDEST SISTER HAS SPOKEN.)
Also, wow that’s a lot grosser to me now than it was 30 years ago.
LIZ: Not just SoCo, but secondhand SoCo. Ewwwwww.
Other ensuing hijinks include the world’s most illogical love triangle, genuinely hilarious body horror (a phrase that really should not exist), and of course, excruciatingly 80s everything.
It’s pretty awesome.
Innerspace is one of those “SF” films which are really much more comedies than they are SF movies, and the sci-fi or fantasy aspects of them are basically excuses for the comedy. These were HUGE in the 80s, and usually I found myself more irritated with them than not – mostly because there was so often an air of condescension about them: the faintest eau de “this is not really a sci-fi movie, because only geeks and losers like that stuff, we’re just using it for laughs, lol backslap”. (Remember, in the 80s, being a geek did not have anywhere near the mainstream cred it does today.)
That said, there were definitely exceptions, and this movie was one of them. Granted, the “science” behind the science fiction of Innerspace is deeply ludicrous, which is often a cardinal sign of the condescending SF comedy, but it was (mostly) internally consistent, taken seriously by the cast (or as seriously as any cast can take anything when said cast includes Martin Short), and the filmmakers spent a pretty penny to make the special effects as good as possible for the time.
They did the latter so well, in fact, that Innerspace won an Oscar for Visual Effects that year. And I have to say, other than a few isolated shots, the effects still hold up really well, even decades later. The “innerspace” environments inside the body of Martin Short’s Jack Putter still look realistic, at least to us, and the action sequences therein, like the scene where Dennis Quaid’s Lt. Tuck Pendleton almost gets sucked into his unwilling host’s heart (which would have killed them both), are still tense and exciting.
KATE: Wouldn’t even that tiny a cut in your veins cause a problem? Like, in fifteen years is Jack Putter going to suddenly bleed out internally from a hundred arterial aneurysms all over his body?
ME: Okay, first: ye gods. And second, shh, no examining the “science”.
This is what I meant by “hilarious body horror”. The implications of what can happen with a tiny dude floating around in your body wreaking havoc are hella disturbing if you think about it too much, but Martin Short also makes them hilarious. Probably because Martin Short can make just about anything hilarious.
Because let’s be real: Dennis Quaid was as charismatic and rakishly handsome as ever, and Meg Ryan was as adorably Meg Ryanish as ever, but the reason this movie worked was because of Martin Short.
Short mostly sticks to the stage and voicing animated characters these days, but he was A Big Deal in the comedy world in the 1980s and 90s, and this is by far my favorite performance of his. His gift for physical comedy lifted the visual gags in Innerspace to a level of sublime absurdity that I don’t think it would otherwise have had.
LIZ: Not that we minded having Dennis Quaid in it as well.
Truth. I swear that man has the greatest shit-eating grin ever invented.
KATE: The opposite view ain’t bad either.
Also truth. We maaaaay have applauded at this juncture of the movie, but I’ll never confirm it.
And the rest of the cast is pretty, ahem, badass as well. Supporting players included Jack’s awesomely horrible Safeway coworkers, played by Henry Gibson and Wendy Shaal (who, fun fact, also both costarred in the Tom Hanks movie The Burbs):
And I completely forgot that The Cowboy (the womanizing fence whose face Jack and Tuck “steal” for a sting operation – look, it makes sense in context) was played by none other than The Doctor, Robert Picardo.
The mention of which is a blatant giving of an excuse to myself to post probably my favorite scene in the movie, when our heroes’ face-stealing scheme goes terribly (and hilariously) awry:
Ridiculous? Of course. Awesome anyway? Definitely. And an excellent example of how this movie manages to make body horror comical.
LIZ: Also featuring, lest we forget, the poor man’s Ahnold.
“Robot hand guy” is a pretty steep downgrade from the Terminator, maybe, but at least the movie knew that and went for the comedy with it.
KATE: OMG I FINALLY JUST GOT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS SCENE.
But at least he also gets possibly the most unique death in movie history!
Last and, unfortunately, kind of least, there is The Love Interest Lydia, played by a pre-A-list Meg Ryan.
My issues with Lydia are the kind of thing that get me accused of seeing things that aren’t there, which makes them all the more annoying, because it is the sort of thing you only notice if you’re looking below the surface. Nominally Lydia is your basic 80s ideal of a Strong Independent Woman (she’s a journalist! She has power shoulder pads and a pixie cut!), but that supposed character profile is undermined by nearly every choice she makes in the film. Not that most of those choices even make sense.
LIZ: Seriously. Why on earth would she suddenly want to kiss Jack just because she finds out that her drunkard ex is tee-tiny and floating around inside him? The hell?
Exactly. The logic there is nonexistent, and reduces Lydia to a plot device. Basically she kisses Jack because she needs to kiss him to move the plot forward, and whether this is something Lydia (or any sane woman) would actually do is beside the point.
KATE: To be fair, Lydia’s not the only one making nonsensical choices in the movie.
…Yeah, if you’re an anxiety-prone hypochondriac who just got injected with an unknown substance by some guy in a mall who then drops dead in front of you, I really don’t think your next move would be to go to work, instead of, you know, the nearest emergency room.
So clearly Innerspace does not have the greatest grip on story logic. But this does not mean it was not tremendous fun anyway, because it totally was. The comedy, the effects, and the action all hold up wonderfully, in my opinion, and the incredible 80s-ness of it all (the Inferno dance club scene has to be seen to be believed on that front) only adds to the enjoyment, at this point.
The only thing really sad-making about it is how the end so clearly set it up for a sequel which never materialized. I would absolutely have watched a sequel to this, you guys. Sigh.
But nevertheless! If you have not seen Innerspace before, or you haven’t seen it in a while, I would say it is well worth your time. And also conveniently available on Netflix at the moment!
And so, we end with our Nostalgia Love to Reality Love 1-10 Scale of Awesomeness!
And that’s the MRGN for now, alla y’all! Have a lovely mid-August… whatever, and come back in two weeks for the next thing!