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All things small reign supreme this night. Our food truck will be Molecular Munchies, and our featured film will be Innerspace! Ah, the underrated brilliance of Joe Dante's Innerspace... This film didn't do massive business in the 80s, but Joe Dante's sci-fi comedy is an underrated classic of its kind.
Innerspace should've been a contender. Released in the summer of 1987, it appeared to have everything going for it: Steven Spielberg on the poster, the guy who made Gremlins as director, and a fun concept which involved miniaturisation, an ex-pilot and a hypochondriac. Yet when Innerspace made its theatrical debut on the 1st July, it was met with surprising indifference - American audiences, it seemed, were more drawn to the comedy Adventures In Babysitting, released that very same day.
In 2010, we spoke to director Joe Dante about Innerspace's fate, and he still seemed frustrated about the way its release was handled back in 87. "The ad campaign was so terrible for that movie," Dante confided. "It was just a giant thumb with a little tiny pod on it. You couldn’t tell that it was a comedy - you couldn’t tell anything - and it had a terrible title, because we could never figure out a better one."
It's certainly true that the poster of the massive digits and the tiny pods doesn't particularly help sell Innerspace's concept - but then again, it was going to be a tricky sell from the very beginning. Whereas earlier Dante movies could conceivably fit their story ideas into a single logline: piranhas attack teens (Piranha) monsters attack a cute all-American town (Gremlins) kids build space rocket (Explorers), Innerspace is far more complicated and zany. In an interview with a French TV station at the time of the movie's release, the best Dante could do was, "It's the one about the guy who gets small and goes inside the other guy," which doesn't exactly sound like the obvious basis for a family movie.
Yet that's exactly what Innerspace is: a (largely) family-friendly, sci-fi comedy told in Dante's typically manic style. Indeed, Dante originally signed on to the project with the stated aim of making a broad, commercial movie; his previous film, Explorers, had sunk without trace - largely because it came out on the same day as Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert. Producer Peter Guber came to Dante with the concept of an adventure movie about a hero who's shrunk down and winds up inside another person's body. Dante was initially reluctant to pursue the idea, since it sounded so much like the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage. Guber then came up with a subtle twist: what if it was a comedy where the straight guy winds up inside the body of the comic relief? Or, as Dante described it years later, "What if Dean Martin was shrunk down and put inside Jerry Lewis?"
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