Toon Zone Reviews: Ozzy & Drix

Brian Cruz

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Kids' WB has provided Toon Zone with preview copies of their new series Ozzy & Drix, which is based on the feature film Osmosis Jones. Presented below are reviews of the series from two members of the Toon Zone crew: one who has seen the original movie and one who has not. And in case you missed it, please take a look at the Ozzy & Drix Preview from earlier in the week.

Toon Zone's senior reviewer Craig Marinaro had this to say:

It’s a thankless task to create a small-screen adaptation of an animated feature. The criticisms are preordained—either it clings too closely to the film, afraid to let go of its parent’s leg and walk by itself, or else it makes a mockery of the parent work by introducing too many original elements and characters. Both of these arguments are small-minded, overused, and based upon unfair expectations. That said, Ozzy & Drix clings too closely to the film, afraid to let go of its parent’s leg and walk by itself.

<a href="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/01.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/t-01.jpg" alt="Click For Larger Image" align="right" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="150" height="170"></a>As with all shows, it’s not entirely fair to judge on the first couple of episodes. There are several elements presented that, if developed correctly, could turn this into one of the more interesting things currently on Saturday morning. The idea to transfer the action to the body of a teenager rather than that of a dilapidated middle-aged man is a refreshing one. Relating to the target audience by presenting the problems they face from this unique vantage point is clever, and makes Hector a very likable character, despite the small amount of screen time he actually receives. The performances of Bill Shatner and Ron Howard as competing mayoral candidates provided some of the funniest moments in the movie, and their characters are missed here. The new mayor character, however, is interesting. It’s funny to have an office-holder whose primary goal is to get his city to its first teenaged party so it can meet girls.

However, as mentioned, the series does seem to be borrowing a bit too much from its predecessor. Scarlet Fever’s method of spreading disease would be much more effective if it weren’t the same way Thrax made his way through Frank’s body in the original. The jokes about banishment by being “flushed out” of the body are also recycled. Perhaps these were meant more as references, to establish continuity—but in either case, it eats up valuable screen time with stuff we’re already familiar with. The “gross out” factor is much less present here than in the film (which is good), but the writing is also noticeably less clever (which is bad). Some things (such as a street sign reading “200 cellometers,” or the band “Metabolica”) got a chuckle, but overall the attempts to duplicate the movie’s style of “bodily humor” came off as flat—in comparison, anyway. As I said, it’s unfair to expect the show to be in the same style as the movie; but since they’re so obviously trying to strive for that a lot of the time, it’s fair game. They also make a few attempts at cultural reference (something WBA has always put in its comedy shows, to great success). Sadly, these parodies are obvious to the point of being painful. We’re talking Star Trek / Terminator levels of obvious.

<a href="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/03.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/t-03.jpg" alt="Click For Larger Image" align="left" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="150" height="170"></a>As in the movie, I found Drix the more likable character—the biggest laugh I got was his line early in the pilot, about why he can’t drive. The character is wanting for the original voice of David Hyde Pierce, but Jeff Bennett’s impression is fairly accurate (although it borders on his John Cleese impression on certain deliveries). Phil LaMarr turns in a rare disappointing performance, interpreting Ozzy as a brasher clone of his Static voice. Tasia Valenza gives a gratingly stereotypical Latino voice to the Maria character, which is a pity, as the character herself shows promise (her crush on Drix is sort of sweet, if it’s not overplayed). Jim Cummings and Vivica Fox also provide voices—both seem to be within their typical comfort zones. The most pleasant acting surprise for me was Tim Curry’s appearance as the Scarlet Fever character in the pilot. He’s made a sub-career out of voicing cartoony supervillains who would be unbearable in anyone else’s hands. His over-the-top style is delightful here, as always.

The animation style inside the body attempts to duplicate the colorful, bouncy style of the movie, and does as good a job as can be expected on a TV budget. Some scenes, such as the climax in the pilot, are genuinely impressive; other times it comes off as needlessly gaudy. Outside the body, the characters are drawn in a style rather reminiscent of Static Shock, which is to say tolerable but impressive. The soundtrack didn’t leave much impression, positive or negative (which is rare for me); the theme song had some clever rhymes, but made me pine for the WBA theme songs of yesteryear (such as “Freakazoid!” and “Road Rovers”).

Despite some rather big kinks, the show left an overall pleasant aftertaste. It’s quirky and fun, which are rare qualities in network Saturday morning fare nowadays. Not the best of its kind, but I’ll be glad if it does well.


Here are some thoughts from Matthew Hunter, webmaster of toolooney.toonzone.net:

It might be both a blessing and a curse when reviewing a cartoon series based on an animated film I have never seen before. I can be fair in reviewing it for what it is, but whether or not it relates to the movie well, I can only guess from clips I've seen and reviews/synopses I read. But this perspective is as good as any.

<a href="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/02.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/t-02.jpg" alt="Click For Larger Image" align="right" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="150" height="170"></a>First of all, I will say that while it's not near the quality of the brilliant half-hour Saturday morning work the WB turned out during their earlier days, such as "Pinky and the Brain", "Freakazoid", "Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries", "Batman/Superman Adventures", and scores of other fun and universally appealing cartoons, it is at least watchable and at times clever. This is more than I can say for most of the Kids WB fare at the moment, which consists mostly of non-Warner products and plenty of loud, action-packed anime. Given these two ends of the spectrum, I'd say "Ozzy and Drix" falls somewhere in between, and has the potential to help the WB regain confidence in character and comedy-driven cartoons, or at least pave the way for something else.

The concept sounded like a stinker to me when I first heard about the original movie, but it turns out to be really clever. Ozzy, short for Osmosis Jones, is a white blood cell in the body of Frank, a slovenly, unhealthy middle-aged man, shown here constantly guzzling junk food. Ozzy and his companion Drix, a pill, work as policemen to defend Frank from disease, obviously a tough job. But when a mosquito's bite transfers them, along with a Scarlet Fever germ, into a thirteen year old boy, they find a new job.

To someone reading this, you will probably think the same thing I did: "How can we sypathize with, relate to or care about a bunch of germs?" Well, the character designs are cool, their colors are striking, and there is some "personality animation" at work here. Ozzy is brash, street-smart and hip-talking, Drix makes a nice companion for him as a calm, cool and collected big guy. The personality comes through in the drawings, and while a TV budget show, the way the art is stylized and streamlined makes it look less limited. The duo's new home and presumably the main human character of the series to come is Hector, a 13 year old boy in relatively good health. While the "outside the body" scenes and characters are quite boring to look at visually, Hector comes off as likeable and easy for the show's target audience to relate to. It can make or break a show to have a character the audience has sympathy with or likes. The supporting cast is bland thus far, though the "Mayor of Hector", a young cell whose main goal in the pilot episode is to get Hector to a party to meet girls, shows promise. The dragonlike Scarlet Fever is interesting, though don't expect him to become a series regular.

<a href="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/04.jpg" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="https://www.toonzone.net/shows/wba/ozzyanddrix/t-04.jpg" alt="Click For Larger Image" align="left" hspace="5" vspace="3" width="225" height="145"></a>The voice work is admirable. Originally, the movie used the voices of David Hyde Pierce (Drix) and Chris Rock (Ozzy), the new voices are Jeff Bennet (Drix) and Phil Lamarr (Ozzy.) Both voices sound like the original actors, which in terms of film continuity is a must, but it can pose a problem in a series when the actors have to imitate a predecessor rather than create a new voice. The actors have to imitate Pierce and Rock and try to capture their characters' mannerisms at the same time. This problem has plagued modern interpretations of classic animated characters from Warner Bros. for years. They can come, in some cases, hauntingly close to Mel Blanc, but still, it's not him. Same goes for any voice we are used to listening to; the slightest difference between actors can be quite noticeable. Case and point: Disney's "Aladdin" series, a very good film-to-TV adaptation with the exception of the Genie, who just wasn't the same as Robin Williams' version. Still, the voices in "Ozzy and Drix" are pleasant to listen to and the characters interact well together. Can't ask for much better than that.

All in all, it is difficult to judge a show, particularly one with such an off-the-wall concept, from one episode, but "Ozzy and Drix" has some potential. I most likely won't watch it frequently, but I wouldn't turn it off if I came across it. I think kids will enjoy the nice blend of characters, humor and action, and older viewers can enjoy the cool look of the show and the characters. In short, it's refreshingly well done, kids will like it and parents can watch it without getting overwhelmed, intellectually insulted or bored. A good start for what I hope is a move toward more sophisticated animation on the WB. I hope, at least for the sake of future programs like it, that "Ozzy and Drix" does well.

Ozzy & Drix premieres this Saturday at 9:30 am (8:30 am Pacific) on Kids' WB!
 

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