Here’s a 1987 sci-fi comedy that was a big hit for us as kids. The practical effects are excellent and it’s good old jolly romp. Rather!
Directed by Joe Dante, the film stars a young Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. This was our The Thing (1982) of our childhood!
Set in San Francisco, naval aviator Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Quaid) resigns his role to rethink his career. To kickstart stuff, he applies for a secret science mission role.
Accepted due to his brilliance (at something),he finds it’s all about miniaturisation. So the scientists stick him into a submersible and inject him into a rabbit. Indeed!
Rival science bunch headed by Dr. Margaret Canker then invade the lab to try and get the technology.
Lab supervisor Ozzie Wexler (John Hora) realises what they’re up to and is able to escape with the syringe.
On the run, a chase blows up and Wexler is shot. As he staggers about in his death throes, he enters a shopping mall and stumbles across hypochondriac shopping clerk Jack Putter (Martin Short).
He’s late for work, but injected in the backside all the same by Wexler. Pendleton, somewhat unaware to what’s going on, enters into Putter’s body.
Pendleton isn’t sure what’s going on either. And he still thinks he’s in the rabbit. His attempts at radio communication with the lab fail. Bugger!
To try and establish communication, he heads up to brain and realises he’s inside a human. And then he tries some painful methods of figuring out… with whom.
Army dude then heads over to Putter’s ear and begins chatting away after inserting a device into his eardrum, which leads the shopping clerk to think he’s losing his mind.
However, over time Pendleton is able to reassure him it’s all science experiments.
And he needs help as there’s only a certain amount of oxygen he has left in the ship’s tank. Which, of course, usually leads to death.
Pendleton convinces Putter to head back to the lab, where the surviving scientists inform them of the updates.
Horror! The rival gang stole an essential computer chip! Blast!
So, it’s up to Putter to do the bravery stuff and save the day. Which is one of the clever things about the film—the role reversal.
Pendleton is the dashing, gung-ho hero. He’s a discount Han Solo, basically. Whereas Putter is the socially awkward nerd who normally wouldn’t have anything to do with this stuff.
It’s all very energetic. Incredibly lively as a film, it moves along at a terrific pace.
Amblin Entertainment was involved in the production, so Steven Spielberg kept a watchful eye over the project and approved of proceedings.
That included incredible practical effects for the era. It’s amazing!
Back to the plot, Putter gets in touch with Pendleton’s erstwhile girlfriend Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan).
We also come across The Cowboy (Robert Picardo), a henchman who they use to get access to get close to Viktor Scrimshaw—an evil mastermind who has the computer chip!
Putter and Maxwell knock The Cowboy out and Pendleton manipulates Putter’s face so he looks like the henchman.
So, yeah, it’s all getting goofy and silly. But it’s great fun as a kid. And it includes a pretty dramatic scene where a baddie pod is sent into Putter to attach the protagonist.
Excuse the unusual subtitles on this next clip.
As you might expect, it all ends rather well and it’s upbeat stuff. With Putter ditching his anxieties at the end of the film to gain a newfound lust for life.
Because that’s just how that works!
Meanwhile, the two former lovers hit it off again. Isn’t that sweet!? Quaid and Ryan met on the set of this film and they went on to marry.
He was upfront about Innerspace, explaining it was stupid fun. A leave your brain at home type of popcorn movie.
None of it makes any sense, of course, but for us as kids watching it in the early 1990s this was a really magical film.
It wasn’t a huge hit. Off its $27 million budget, it did make $42 million back worldwide.
But now Innerspace is one of those obscure cult films of yesteryear. Certainly should have been more popular back in 1987.
Yet for those of us who saw it there or thereabouts, it’s a lively, upbeat, and thoroughly entertaining bit of nonsense. And we love it.