Innerspace (1987)
September 13, 2014 9:09 AM - Subscribe

A hapless store clerk must foil criminals to save the life of the man who, miniaturized in a secret experiment, was accidentally injected into him.

A more detailed summation from Film Connoisseur:
While Innerspace shares the same basic premise seen in Fantastic Voyage, that of conducting experiments dealing with miniaturization, it is also a very different movie in many ways. First off, in the first film the main characters are inserted into the body of a comatose scientist, which immediately makes the film a bit slower in pace. In Innerspace the main character is injected into a hyper active, paranoid supermarket employee/nerdy guy called Jack Putter. Putter is played by the one and only Martin Short, who makes this film even more entertaining than it already is. I mean, for me, Martin Short has always been this incredibly funny comedian. In the right movie the guy can really shine. Ever seen him play Ned Nederlander in Three Amigos! (1986)? Do yourself a favor, hilarious! Innerspace was the first film he ever starred in as the main character, and he really took the opportunity to show what he’s made off. He plays this paranoid nerdy guy who gets extremely agitated, he lives in constant fear, basically, he’s afraid of life. The interesting part comes when Lt. Tuck Pendleton is injected into his body. Pendleton finds a way to communicate with Jack, who at first thinks he is possessed by demons when he hears Tucks voice inside his head. But once Jack understands what’s going on, Tuck becomes sort of this driving force inside of Jack, a force that gives him the push necessary to do things he would have never done before. Through Tuck, Jack gains an inner strength he never had, he evolves into someone who will go up against life instead of shrivel in fear of it, this is a character that we see evolve and grow through the course of the film.
Roger Ebert called Innerspace "an absurd, unwieldy, overplotted movie that nevertheless is entertaining," and wrote in his review:
This is Short's comeback film after the unhappy experience of "Three Amigos." At last he shows what he can do in a film, realizing the promise of his peculiar but fascinating work on "Saturday Night Live." He gives us a little of his "SNL" schtick in a weird, off-balance dance, but basically he's playing a very confused straight man in this film, and he is always fun to watch.

Working inside Short in his tiny capsule, Quaid has a tougher role because he can't get physical. All of his actions have to be taken through the instrument of Short's body, and there are wonderful scenes where he uses rhetoric to inspire this nerd to act like a hero.
Ebert concludes that the film "never quite knows whether to be a comedy or a thriller" but in the end that it doesn't matter in terms of enjoyment of the movie.

The New York Times review of the film is positive with reservations. Janet Maslin writes, "... if the idea recalls Fantastic Voyage, the film itself owes more to All of Me," referring to the 1984 comedy starring Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin.

Malin writes of director Joe Dante: "His view of pop culture seems both mischievous and appreciative, and there are times when his film conveys that with great buoyancy (fittingly enough, one of its key scenes takes place in a shopping mall). At other times it has a busy and perfunctory tone, one that might have been alleviated by a more streamlined screenplay and a sharper sense of why any of this should matter." Dante also directed Gremlins (1984).

What is on one level a wacky sci-fi adventure can also be read as subversive: the homoerotic themes are outlined by at least one film and culture studies book, Masculine Interests: Homoerotics in Hollywood Films, by Robert Lang, who writes that "Tuck (played by Dennis Quaid) pushes the play of masculinity just far enough to suggest that it is a masquerade" and that "Innerspace introduces Tuck and Jack as characters both with un-heterosexual tendencies, and the film's half-hearted ideological imperative is to make them into 'normal,' well-adjusted, heterosexual men."

  • Fellow SCTV colleagues, Andrea Martin and Joe Flaherty, make cameo appearances as patients in a doctor's waiting room, and turn in memorable performances, if brief.
  • "[Kevin] McCarthy was one of three actors (with Dick Miller and Robert Picardo) often cast by director Joe Dante. McCarthy's most notable role in Dante's films was in 1987 as the prime antagonist, Victor Scrimshaw, in Innerspace." (Wikipedia)
  • The music of Sam Cooke would've been nostalgic for baby boomers and served the movie well in heightening emotional scenes and augmenting characters and storylines.
  • The red car in the film has an entry in the (Internet Movie Cars Database).
  • Blog post at The Film Connoisseur talks, among other things, about the hidden Warner Brothers symbols and references to cartoons in the film.
  • Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid met on this set and were married in 1991.
  • More Innerspace triva at IMDB.
YouTube Links
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What a fun film, I need to re-watch this sometime. Joe Dante is criminally under-rated as a director, it's shame he hasn't made more films. This, Gremlins 1 & 2, Explorers, Matinee, all enjoyable.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nice write-up!
posted by carsonb at 11:26 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always interpreted the movie as a neurotic guy who needed an injection if courage to get him going...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wore out the VHS of this movie when I was 7 or 8. I think my dad taped it off HBO. Man, I loved this movie and I haven't seen it since. Two things that stick out in my memory are the creep who "makes love with [his] boots on" and the special effects fascinating me/making me want to vomit. Because of them I associate this movie with Look Who's Talking?
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:05 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

My review (feat. Star Trek connections beyond Picardo)

I found it much more diverting and much less annoying than I'd feared. Definitely worthy of analysis as a fittingly peculiar representation of its peculiar time and place.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2014

I loved this movie as a kid. A crush on Dennis Quaid plus Martin Short yelling out "I'M POSSESSED" is what did it, I think. So I went and watched a few clips on Youtube and it turns out, I still have a crush on Dennis Quaid and I still love Martin Short yelling out "I'M POSSESSED."
posted by PussKillian at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fun (to me) fact: The Pet Shop Boys song "Heart" was originally intended to be used in the dance sequence, but it was decided they wanted something with a different tempo.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whoa - where did you learn that? I always assumed that using Sam Cooke was targeted at pleasing Baby Boomers (and, of course, that Sam Cooke is The Master).

I really liked their use of songs to slow down the tempo and provide a breather from the action, and also to augment the emotions swirling around. It was selective and effective (TM).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:22 PM on September 16, 2014

I had heard it a long time ago in early Internet Pet Shop Boys fandom (along with the factoid that they had originally written the song wanting Madonna to do it, but then did it themselves - which is actually in the liner notes to their first collection of singles) and it's on the song's Wikipedia page. But I don't have any better sources than that and it does seem weird to me.

At any rate, the whole "different tempo" thing seems like a polite rejection since the pleasing Baby Boomers things does seem a lot more Hollywood-at-that-time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:45 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved this movie as a kid. A crush on Dennis Quaid

That brought me into the theater! I usually watch a show or movie if there is a ridiculously handsome male prominently showcased throughout so that I could re-watch it on mute and still be entertained even if I didn't actually like it when the sound was on...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:15 PM on September 17, 2014

Shut up and kiss me!

I loved this move so much.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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