Sometimes certain movies are a success guarantee before they are even made, such as Innerspace from 1987.
The story takes its inspiration from the famous novel Fantastic Voyage, where a military crew was miniaturized and eventually shipped into the veins of a scientist to save his life.
In this case, the experiment’s guinea pig is a young and troubled lieutenant who must test this new technology by studying the body of a rabbit from the inside.
Once shrunk to microscopic proportions and injected through a syringe, however, the boy discovers he is now inside the body of a human being.
Indeed, the mercenary platoon raids the lab during the process to steal the precious miniaturization chips.
The mercenaries kill all but one scientist who escapes and, before dying, injects the syringe into the butt of an ordinary supermarket clerk.
While being as different from each other as possible, the brave lieutenant and the shy clerk must work together to recover the stolen chip allowing to restore the shrunk objects to their original size.
Indeed the soldier is running out of time since his spaceship has only three days of autonomy before its oxygen entirely runs out.
The forced neighborhood makes them friends after the initial astonishment and distrust, with the clerk beginning to overcome his many pointless fears.
Unfortunately, the mercenaries are also after them because, conversely, the chip within the spaceship allows miniaturization.
Fortunately, both find help in the lieutenant’s ex-girlfriend, a somewhat scatterbrained would-be journalist who agrees to follow them on their adventure.
A giant movie of minuscule proportions
I admit to not being objective about 1987’s Innerspace since it is a movie inspired by one of my favorite writers and helmed by one of my favorite directors.
Subjectively, anyone else must admit it has aged better for action sci-fi than many other movies of the same period.
First, the special effects by Industrial Light & Magic are still visually spectacular today, not surprisingly winning the oscar award in the category that same year.
The miniaturization sequences are terrific, and the human body interior is staged using intense lighting and colors typical of classic horror, of which Joe Dante is an admirer, as we recently saw in his hilarious Burying the Ex.
Moreover, as I already said, it fits perfectly into the successful family sci-fi series of movies that started with Gremlins and Explorers.
A series that will, unfortunately, stop with Gremlins 2 – The New Batch, despite it being an excellent funny, wild movie, unfortunately perhaps going too far over the top for ordinary blockbuster audiences.
Innerspace does not suffer from this problem since the comedy and romance amply round out some excesses and holes in the script.
Turning Isaac Asimov‘s masterpiece into a comic angle was the key to success, further unleashing all of Joe Dante‘s visual flair and narrative creativity.
The director does not give us a moment’s respite by always dragging us rushing from one situation to the next at a frenetic pace that nevertheless leaves time for exciting character development.
Obviously, we should look for something other than scientific or narrative credibility in this story. Yet, on the contrary, the constant pursuit of new ideas in every comic or action scene is admirable.
Indeed, maybe it is more of a parody than a full-fledged sci-fi movie, but where is the line here?
Action heroes and comedians
Of course, we must also consider the excellent cast, besides the perfect direction of Joe Dante, who safely work in fellow and friend Steven Spielberg‘s production.
In the action hero role, we have the enthusiastic young Dennis Quaid, nowadays also perfect for these sci-fi movies as we have seen, for example, in the recent and mysterious Pandorum.
His swaggering attitude and heartbreaker demeanor drag the other characters to heroism, sometimes by blackmail and deception if necessary.
Moreover, the actor plays practically alone inside the miniature spaceship set for almost the entire story, having the neurotic little Martin Short as his only interlocutor.
The hilarious comedian is one of the many talents coming out of the legendary Saturday Night Live to forge, from which countless stars emerged, such as, for example, the outstanding Blues Brothers Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
Here we see him in one of his performances I most cherish to remember, along with the crazy wedding planner role in 1991’s Father of the Bride, along with two absolute comedy legends like Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.
Short and Quaid make up one of the most bizarre couples for a buddy movie ever seen on screen since they are never together on the scene, though they are together the whole time.
Of course, to add that unique spicy romantic (and somewhat sexual) flavor, we have the equally young and beautiful Meg Ryan, no less neurotic and irrepressible in her character.
Slapstick humor and gags with misunderstandings are nonstop in every minute of the movie, along with a science fiction plot that homages Isaac Asimov‘s great classic from the heart.
Although Innerspace was not a blockbuster in 1987, it became a cult movie with a large and loyal fan following.