Joe Dante is a name I’ve never paid enough attention to. As a director, you’ll see it next to 80s classics like Gremlins, its sequel and The Burbs. Movies I love. Yet I’ve never taken the time to delve into his filmography. Even this movie. A movie I can remember mates watching when we were kids and raving about. I can remember me really wanting to see it and never being able to for various reasons. I movie that I know I saw bits and pieces of on cable, but for more various reasons, never watched beginning to end, until now. I have finally seen, Innerspace.
Tuck (Dennis Quaid) is an alcoholic astronaut showing up drunk at astronaut functions, bitter that he’s not walking on the moon. Lydia (Meg Ryan) is his fed up girlfriend. Sick of his selfish ways and ready to kick his ass to the curb. Jack (Martin Short) is a hypochondriac, timid supermarket checkout operator scared of his own shadow. And once Tuck’s experimental shrink ray is put to the test, these three people are drawn into the kind of adventurous romp that could only happen in the 80s and could only be directed by Joe Dante.
Tuck, inside a submarine type capsule, is shrunk down to the size of a pin head, ready to be inserted into a rabbit. When bad guys try to steal Tuck’s shrink ray technology, his micro self is inadvertently injected into the unknowing Jack. Now it’s a race against time to convince Jack that Tuck is inside him, convince Lydia that Tuck is inside Jack, beat the bad guys, and find the missing computer chip that will enable them to re-enlarge Tuck before he runs out of oxygen while cruising around Jack’s blood stream.
Martin Short is in this movie. Joe Dante made this movie. So the fact that Innerspace is super funny and super fun didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was how great Dennis Quaid is. He’s a solid enough actor, but I can’t imagine anyone has ever rated him as one of the best of his generation. But he really delivers here. 99% of Quaid’s screen time is spent alone, in his submarine, talking to Jack, who he never gets to physically interact with. Talking and reacting to no one for an entire movie can’t be easy for an actor. But Quaid makes you believe he’s teeny-tiny, inside a submarine, inside Martin Short, talking to Short via crazy gadgets and 80s tech wizardry.
It’s only a matter of time before the remake machine make its way to the work of Joe Dante. And at the risk of sounding like an old man who needs to move on, CGI would do nothing but take the heart and soul from his movies. Would a CGI gremlin look more badass than the 80s puppets? Maybe. But would they have the same impact and soul? It will happen, and it will be a sad, but as long as we have the originals of those and Innerspace as well, things will be OK.