Innerspace (1987)

Innerspace (1987)

Taglines: Inside Jack Putter there’s a hero trying to get out.

Tuck Pendleton is a cocky pilot, who is taking part in a miniaturization experiment. When some bad guys break into the lab to steal the technology, one of the scientists takes a syringe which contains the miniaturized Tuck and vessel. Now in the vessel is part of the material needed to restore him. But the other part which is the lab is stolen. The scientist’s shot but before dying he injects Tuck into Jack Putter, a hypochondriac, who feels that something is wrong with him all the time.

When Tuck links himself to Jack’s systems, he discovers that something happened. So they go back to the lab, and discover what happened. Now they are told that unless they retrieve the material that was stolen they won’t be able to restore Tuck before his oxygen is depleted. Now the government rep decides that the only thing that matters that as long as they have the other half of the material, it is useless to the thieves. So Tuck eggs Jack to go out and find the thieves.

Innerspace is a 1987 science fiction comedy film directed by Joe Dante and produced by Michael Finnell. Steven Spielberg served as executive producer. The film was inspired by the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage. It stars Dennis Quaid, Martin Short and Meg Ryan, with Robert Picardo and Kevin McCarthy, with music composed by Jerry Goldsmith. It earned well over $25m of domestic gross revenue and won an Oscar, the only film directed by Dante to do so.

Innerspace (1987)

Film Review for Innerspace

Using a twist on the ingenious premise of “Fantastic Voyage”–miniaturized travel within a human body–and a pair of very different but equally irresistible leading men, “Innerspace” (citywide) is densely inventive and consistently hilarious.

The 1966, “Fantastic Voyage” took one boatload–pardon, subminiaturized–crew of earnest scientists through the circulatory system and up to the brain of a researcher whose potentially lethal blood clot they blasted away with a laser. Those who saw it are not likely to forget its astonishing inner-body landscapes nor the sight of Raquel Welch, her wet suit a mass of attacking antibodies.

As directed by Joe Dante, this script for “Innerspace,” by Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser from Proser’s story, changes things significantly. Instead of an anesthetized patient and a voyaging crew, there’s a one-man explorer ship, piloted by Lt. Tuck Pendelton (Dennis Quaid), and a nerve-jangled supermarket clerk, Jack Putter (Martin Short), who becomes his inadvertent host body.

Innerspace (1987)

How this unlikely pair, the smooth, hell-raising Air Force test pilot and the sweet, semi-milquetoasty checker, get together in the first place is the fault of “Silicon Valley industrial spies,” who interrupt the action after Quaid and his ship have been miniaturized enough to rest inside a hypodermic syringe. The experiment was intended to be done within the bloodstream of a rabbit, but during the ensuing pursuit, it’s the backside of Short that receives the injection.

The multinational baddies (Kevin McCarthy, Fiona Lewis, Vernon Wells) need Quaid, since he carries half the experiment’s mechanism with him. Quaid needs their half to become his normal size again. Additionally, Quaid is racing against time before his oxygen runs out.

The new twist is that Quaid and Short begin to work as one body, once Quaid has attached electronic gizmos to Short’s auditory and optic centers. (A nasty bit of business, this: Short feels “a white-hot sewing needle through the pupil of his eye,” and similar ear pains. What price electronic gimmickry if half your audience is doubled over in empathic pain? Quaid’s ship, with its little grappling hooks attaching to Short’s spongy interior linings, stirs up pretty painful responses as well.)

As he’s shown before, in “Gremlins” and “Explorers,” director Dante isn’t one for serene vistas or uncluttered action; he has almost a cartoonist’s-eye view of life and he drops in little affectionate homages to old movies at every turn. (Villain Wells is a dead ringer for Jack Palance in “Shane.”) Here, his scientist’s lab is a homey, messy place; papers all over, a lounging Bugs Bunny cartoon rabbit as a mascot. His inner-body scapes, technically cleaner than in the earlier movie, don’t have quite its scale or jaw-dropping grandeur. And Dante’s action is the same: human, folksy, appealing.

He has cast two warm and marvelously adroit actors to carry it out. Between “Innerspace” and the yet-to-be-released thriller “The Big Easy,” Quaid, with his killer grin and his sleepy self-confidence, has gotten a corner on the role of the securely sexy American male. Quaid luxuriates in “Innerspace’s” extroverted character, making you forget completely that he’s relatively constricted in the physical space allowed him.

Short’s opportunity is at the opposite end of the physical spectrum. There seems to be nothing he can’t do, from “Twistin’ the Night Away,” which–oddly enough–he dances as if possessed from within, to a hairsbreadth balancing act between a refrigerated truck and the windshield of a car, which he does with the elan of Cary Grant. (Director Dante’s camera angles add enormously to the success of this sequence, making you forget that it isn’t exactly the cinema’s newest scare tactic.) If somehow, Short, a brilliant Canadian actor-comedian whose looks are a cross between E. B. White’s Stuart Little and Jim Dale, eluded you on “SCTV” or in “The Three Amigos,” “Innerspace” will be a superlative introduction.

Between the two men is Quaid’s journalist girlfriend, Lydia (Meg Ryan), mad about the man, but fed up with his drunken antics before he goes off to the innerspace lab. There are delicious complications when she and Short join forces to safeguard Quaid. The macho lieutenant’s barked commands, from inside Short, begin to change the gentle grocery man. He, in turn, lights up when Ryan is around, which rattles Quaid. It is all so deftly played that the romantic denouement, with the camera focused on Short’s face, is unexpectedly touching.

At two hours, “Innerspace” is certainly crammed with action, but it’s one of the rare Spielberg-touched productions that doesn’t suffer from numbing Gargantuanism (maybe it’s the miniaturization theme). Although crammed with technical wonders–Short’s rubber face maneuver, the balancing car-chase sequence, the inner-body scenes, the half-pint master villains–it remains adroit and affectionate, its human touch around to the very end.

Innerspace Movie Poster (1987)

Innerspace (1987)

Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Fiona Lewis, Vernon Wells, Wendy Schaal, Harold Sylvester, William Schallert
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Boam
Production Design by: James H. Spencer
Cinematography by: Andrew Laszlo
Film Editing by: Kent Beyda
Costume Design by: Rosanna Norton
Set Decoration by: Richard C. Goddard
Art Direction by: William F. Matthews
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: July 1, 1987