How Accurate is The Viral Cycle in ‘Osmosis Jones’?

Timothy RawlesFeatured, True HorrorLeave a Comment

Let’s face it, the average person knows nothing about the spreading of disease, but Bob and Peter Farrelly attempted to nail it back in 2001 with their animated sleeper Osmosis Jones.

The world is currently living through one of its worse pandemics. Television news and social media are alive with updates, rhetoric, and doom speak.

Osmosis Jones kinda puts everything in perspective (although inaccurately) as far as human pathology and anatomy, complete with a very scary villain. Along with Contagion and Outbreak, it couldn’t be more timely.

Here’s a synopsis of Osmosis Jones:

Out-of-shape, middle-aged, and slovenly Frank DeTorre (Bill Murray), contracts a deadly virus after consuming an egg off the ground invoking the ten-second rule (which I always thought was a three-second rule).

The virus, named Thrax, is a serial pathogen attached to the egg and makes it his mission, like any other virus, to wreak havoc on the human body.

This would seem easy if it weren’t for Osmosis “Ozzy” Jones, a white blood cell whose job it is to protect Frank by killing off foreign bodies.

The truth is, the body has three lines of defenses against foreign bodies not just the white blood cells, but that wouldn’t make for a suspenseful action-adventure mostly aimed at children.

Osmosis Jones moves between live-action and animation. The latter is inside Frank’s body that resembles a big city (named Frank) and is populated by anthropomorphic microorganisms. It’s the perfect setting for the Farrelly Brothers signature brand of gross-out storytelling.

Mayor Phlegmming (William Shatner) oversees the metropolis, who appears to have been modeled after the character Mayor Larry Vaughn from Jaws because, despite all the warnings, Phlegmming still wants to put Frank in danger by increasing his urges to eat junk food and compete in the “Chicken Wing Festival.”

Thrax leaves his mark on Frank’s throat upon entry which causes inflammation. Frank uses a cold capsule to ease the effects. This capsule named Drixenol “Drix” Koldreliff (David Hyde Pierce) soon joins Osmosis in an investigation to find and rid Frank’s body of the deadly virus.

In this time of COVID-19 when many people are so confused about how a virus takes hold and what it can do to elderly people or people with underlying health issues such as obesity Osmosis Jones is like a flow chart, albeit flawed, of the viral lifecycle.

My limited knowledge on how a virus works is this:

Basically it enters the body, it takes a cell hostage and uses it as a host. Once inside the cell, it commandeers the cell’s replication code and begins to copy itself. After the host cell has outlived its purpose, it dies and the virus moves on to another one.

Osmosis Jones takes an artistic approach here. Thrax isn’t trying to copy himself and to my understanding, he is independent of any viral replication tactics, although he does employ some very inept henchmen. Could this mean he’s a bioengineered virus developed for warfare?

Then there’s the body’s defense system. As mentioned before our bodies have three lines of defense against a virus, the white blood cells (check), macrophages, and finally our body’s specific Cell-mediated response and Antibody-mediated response which if working correctly targets the infection and kills it.

Osmosis Jones leaves out a lot scientific truths but even at its most basic, the film creates interest in its intended younger audience about the human body.

They learn about the importance of hygiene, that a virus can enter by way of the mouth, nose or eyes. Even though the City of Frank is a metaphor, the film explores human anatomy in clever ways which kids will find amusing.

As for adults, the movie has beautifully animated sequences, directed by Tom Sito and Piet Kroon, they are pretty gorgeous; a combination of computer rendering and hand-drawn cells.

And of course, this is brothers Farrelly film and contains plenty of body fluid humor both in the animated world and in the practical one which should entertain both kids and adults.

One problematic aspect is that even though Frank has a strong white blood cell fighting off the infection, some people don’t have a hearty Osmosis in their body and therefore the contagion might be dire for them.

Not scientifically accurate, Osmosis Jones gets some bonus points for humor and pseudo-science. It might not get a lot of things right which probably isn’t helpful right now, but what is helpful is that it gives us a chance to laugh which they say is indeed the best medicine.

Osmosis Jones is currently available to stream on Starz.