Innerspace (1987) — An extremely intimate medical checkup

“Jack… it worked. You just digested the bad guy.”

Justin’s rating: Honey, I shrank the Quaid

Justin’s review: As much as there was a fascination with outer space in the ’80s, the concept of shrinking super-small to explore the “inner space” of a human body had a bit of a run during this time as well. I remember going on the Body Wars ride at EPCOT several times as a kid, but I remember watching Innerspace and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids even more than that. This was one of my go-to childhood movies, combining humor, science fiction, and a really out there premise.

It’s just such a good movie stocked with excellent actors, fun special effects, and Joe Dante at the helm (with Steven Spielberg executive producing). You don’t get better ’80s pedigree than this.

Our accidental hero of Innerspace is Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid), a washed-up Air Force pilot who volunteers for a dangerous scientific experiment to handle a special craft that’s shrunk down to be injected into a rabbit. However, a team of industrial saboteurs crashes into the lab during the experiment, and a desperate scientist grabs the syringe and injects Tuck into the body of Jack Putter (Martin Short).

This isn’t great, because Jack is an extreme hypochondriac who can’t handle stress or weird symptoms. He certainly can’t handle a voice talking to him from inside of his head claiming to be a miniaturized pilot who’s far out of bounds.

What’s even worse is that one of the chips needed to save Tuck is missing, the murderous saboteurs are hot on Tuck’s trail (one of whom has a cyborg hand, why not), and Tuck has less than a day of air remaining. Their only ally is Lydia, Meg Ryan at perhaps her most beautiful screen appearance. It takes a bit to convince her (and Jack) of this extraordinary circumstance, but without her, the pair are doomed.

Innerspace really throws a whole lot into this pot, and the result is a magnificently entertaining movie that wastes no time getting into the fun of having a person exploring the inside of another guy who is freaking out about all of this. The special effects are a hoot, with Tuck surviving a trip to the stomach, hotwiring Jack’s eardrums, and even making a trip over to Lydia’s body. I mean, this is first and foremost a comedy/adventure, but don’t dismiss the scifi special effects done well before the era of CGI.

Martin Short and Dennis Quaid make a terrific comedic duo, even though the two share very very little in the way of screen time together. The neurotic Jack and alcoholic Tuck need each other to survive, and as Jack begins an adventure to help get Tuck out of his body, Tuck helps Jack gain self-confidence and overcome his extreme fear of… well, of everything. Their adventures focus on waylaying a black market tech dealer known as The Cowboy (Star Trek’s Robert Picardo) and using Tuck’s pod to — somehow — reconfigure Jack’s face to impersonate the man and steal the computer chip needed for re-enlargement.

Before long, Tuck is battling a miniaturized foe, Jack’s fighting his growing attraction for Lydia (yeah, there’s an odd love triangle here that eventually peters out), and various people get shrunk and un-shrunk. Also, we get to take a tour of the wonders and terrors of the inner body, including the highway of the aortas, the death pit of the stomach, and a fly by of a baby in a womb. There’s some gross parts for kids to “ew!” at, but mostly it’s impressive sight-seeing.

I don’t usually hear Innerspace brought up as people’s favorite ’80s movies when they rattle off a list, but if you mention it specifically to them, more often than not there’s an animated, “Oh YEAH! That was a great movie!” And it really is in the way that many of Joe Dante’s adventures — such as Gremlins or Explorers — tend to be.

Didja notice?

  • I always thought the ice cube opening title sequence was a nice fake-out
  • Tuck’s drunken introduction is beautifully done
  • And for those of you that wanted to see Dennis Quaid’s bum out in the streets, there you go
  • Jack’s dream always unnerved me
  • Using the robot arm to put a small red disc into a machine when you could just use your fingers seems a little unnecessary
  • Shrinking only works when you, you know, spin around a whole lot. This is essential for the process.
  • The Bugs Bunny stuffie
  • Fire extinguishers can knock everyone out with a few sprays to the face
  • Biking against traffic seems a little suicidal
  • “Am I being punished?” cracked me up
  • Dying with all of these furry mascot faces look down on you is not a great way to go
  • So does Jack’s dream coming true mean that he’s a precog or something?
  • Back when women would smoke in supermarkets with pistol lighters
  • Those are some huge photographs
  • “I think we can rule out demonic possession right off the bat”
  • That’s one way to get a drink
  • The Cowboy deserves his own theme… and to smoke a cigar on an airplane
  • “What’s so bad about being small? You’re not going to be small forever!” at the urinal. AHAHA.
  • Meg Ryan explaining what tasers do
  • Every bad guy needs a fluffy white dog on his desk
  • Is that Cousin It at the club?
  • All miniature ships can alter the faces of their subjects. Just common sense.
  • The cyborg’s got an attachment for everything
  • Hey baby!
  • Mech vs. mech miniature combat!
  • “Hi Mr. Killer!” always gets a laugh from me
  • Half-sized bad guys
  • The skeleton will give a lot of kids nightmares

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