Innerspace (Joe Dante / U.S., 1987):

The cosmos is a whiskey glass, the top-gun fête is crashed by a "crippled tomcat" looking for the loo -- the credits are barely over and Joe Dante has already pushed Explorers' debunking of sci-fi piety to the next level. Fantastic Voyage and The Incredible Shrinking Man are grist to the satirical mill: The miniaturized pilot (Dennis Quaid) in the microscopic pod is supposed to be injected into a lab bunny but the syringe instead finds its way to the ass of the hypochondriac supermarket cashier (Martin Short). Once his panic settles, Short, who doesn't make much use of his body, waxes lyrical about the organs the shrunken visitor must be coursing through: "The gastric mucosa... intestinal villi... pulmonary alveoli..." An experimental microchip sought by a white-suited smuggler (Kevin McCarthy) makes for a passable MacGuffin, though the plot is free enough for Quaid to navigate the saliva exchanged during a kiss and find himself inside the womb of his girlfriend (Meg Ryan), contemplating a Starchild of his own making. The main tributary is Chuck Jones (Bugs' Bonnets in particular), the Tashlin ode laid out by Short's spasms is completed by the appearance of Kathleen Freeman. Other looney tunes in this effervescence include a chia-pet-headed Robert Picardo as a sleazy dealer ("Who do you think introduced Velcro to the Persian Gulf?") with a cowboy fetish, and Vernon Wells in a dry-ice Schwarzenegger burlesque, complete with removable steel hand and snap-on dildo for the villainess (Fiona Lewis). "Congratulations, you just digested the bad guy." For all the Amblin technology on display, Dante's greatest effects are humanistic: A dying scientist's final glimpse of mall clowns in animal costumes, Sam Cooke's "Cupid" echoing inside Ryan's innards, above all the sublime elasticity of the human face. With Wendy Schaal, William Schallert, Henry Gibson, Harold Sylvester, John Hora, Mark L. Taylor, Archie Hahn, Dick Miller, and Kenneth Tobey.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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