“Innerspace” Memories

Recently, I made a reference to the movie “Innerspace” in a conversation with one of my co-workers, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I couldn’t believe it. How could anyone escape the 1980s without having seen “Innerspace” at least a dozen times? It seemed to be a Saturday afternoon staple on all the local TV stations where I grew up. Also, it’s an excellent sci-fi/comedy — a difficult balance to strike — directed by the inimitable Joe Dante (“Gremlins”).

innerspace

I remember seeing “Innerspace” in the theater during its original release. I must’ve been about 7 or 8. It was one of those movie-going experiences in my youth that’s been crystallized in my mind. I sometimes forget about what I saw last weekend, but I can still remember going into the auditorium to see “Innerspace” and loving it to pieces as a kid.

The film stars Dennis Quaid as cocky fighter pilot, Tuck Pendleton. Tuck’s volunteered for a top secret project in which he and a submersible pod will be shrunken down to microscopic size and injected in a laboratory rabbit. But during the experiment, an industrial spy named Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells) tries to steal the hypodermic needle that contains the minutuized pod with Tuck inside. The lead scientist, however, flees Igoe and, before dying of a gunshot wound, injects a hypocondriac grocery store clerk named Jack Putter (Martin Short) with 50ccs of Tuck Pendleton.

What follows is the most unusual buddy movie ever made. While Tuck goes on the adventure of a lifetime within Jack’s circulatory system, Jack’s relentlessly pursued by well-dressed megalomaniac Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy). Scrimshaw wants to steal the miniturizition tech from Jack’s body and sell it on the black market as a new type of weapon. Jack, meanwhile, needs to recover a microchip from Scrimshaw that can restore Tuck to normal size. The only person who can help Jack on this caper is Tuck’s estranged girlfriend, a newspaper reporter named Lydia (Meg Ryan).

I should also mention Robert Picardo’s turn as self-styled ladies’ man and weapons dealer, The Cowboy. Picardo always brings his A-game as a character actor, but this role has to be my personal favorite of his. And the scene where Tuck literally rearranges Jack’s face to make him look like The Cowboy is probably the funniest scene in the movie and Joe Dante at his most madcap.

The sci-fi action is first-rate as well. Late in the film, Scrimshaw shrinks Igoe down and injects him in Jack to find Tuck. The battle between Tuck and Igoe in Jack’s stomach has some great practical effects work and a great punchline: “You just digested the bad guy.”

“Innerspace” is an overlooked gem of the 1980s. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, it holds up quite well. And if you’ve never seen it, well, get on that. Getting puzzled looks from people when I make “Innerspace” references is something I hope to make a thing of the past.

Brad Lohan

Brad Lohan is a writer, cineaste and costumed vigilante who lives in Los Angeles. He is currently procrastinating his next screenplay.

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4 thoughts on ““Innerspace” Memories

  1. This had an intense run on HBO at some point and I think I must have watched it nearly every other day for a whole summer.

    Great call on Robert Picardo. Guy never gets enough respect.

  2. Atari Adventure Square says:

    A terrific fun movie I’ve revisited a number of times.
    Yeah, Picardo steals the scenes when he appears. But everybody’s great in this.

    I’m pretty sure I only saw this movie on tape (and later cable) and I’m reminded how VHS took over cinema in the 80s.
    Definitely a big-screen-worthy movie, but I don’t know if it came out on a large-scale in the mid-sized cities like the one I grew up in when in my teens.
    The local rental store had more business than the (two) local theaters, I’m pretty sure.

    Everytime I see this title, I think of that fact.
    Would’ve loved to have seen this with a large audience.
    Though I still have good memories of seeing it with my friends at home (some of that banter comes back to mind while watching these 80s flicks).

  3. @AtariAdventureSquare Same here, friend. I sadly missed this in the movie theater but I rented the heck out of it once it hit VHS though.

    The DVD has some nice commentary by the way, one of the earlier discs I picked up. :)

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