In my last review, I looked back at 2001’s Osmosis Jones. I largely agreed with the critical reception of the time in that the animated portions of the film, while deep rooted in the cliches of buddy cop movies, was made relatively enjoyable thanks to the interpretation of the body as a city. I also agreed that the live action sections were extremely weak, largely due to them being the primary source of the movie’s gross-out humour. A year after the movie hit cinemas, something that seemingly addresses these faults comes out: The cartoon Ozzy & Drix.
It used to be the case that practically anything popular with children, no matter how little sense it made, would get a cartoon series. The Mask made sense, but then there was the Robocop animated series, and I’m not sure exactly who was asking for a Police Academy cartoon. But, given how Osmosis Jones did perform better on home media than it did in the box office, pandering to the demographic they might have seen as responsible could be a successful idea.
Ozzy & Drix is a cartoon that ran for 2 seasons of 13 episodes between 2002 and 2004 on Kids’ WB. Following the events of Osmosis Jones, the titular Osmosis and Drix get sucked up by a mosquito while chasing after the disease Scarlet Fever. It transports them from the city of Frank to the city of Hector, a 13 year old boy. After saving Hector, they are allowed to continue living there by the mayor, setting up a PI business behind his eye. Together they constantly butt heads with the mayor and the police force as they try and protect the kid from all manners of bodily threats.
As it’s the first thing anyone’s exposed to while watching a cartoon, I feel I should look at the intro first. And in both the music and the intro animation, it’s clear that the creative team were trying to some degree, but they didn’t put their all behind it. The animation does do its job, it gives a summary of things you can expect from the show, such as Ozzy and Drix fighting some threat from outside the body with the mayor taking the credit. It’s not amazing, but it’s decently fluid. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t cut corners. Several scenes are taken directly from the show itself, and even in one particularly noticeable example with Drix dancing from the movie that spawned it, dragging it down slightly from what would otherwise be a completely alright intro.
The theme song itself is a hip hop track clearly inspired from the movie’s soundtrack. I don’t know how much room I have to criticize it, given it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with, but it sounds somewhat generic, for lack of a better term. It’s a perfectly fine song, but even after listening to it over 26 times I can’t remember a single lyric except for the very beginning or the very end. It just doesn’t seem to stand out. With all that said, I can still call it the best track in the show, though that is to damn it with very faint praise. Also inspired by the movie’s soundtrack, Ozzy & Drix features an original song every few episodes. Not a single one of them was pleasant to listen to, with whatever band at the mic screaming exposition about the state of Hector, even though the viewer already knows it and the band sometimes really shouldn’t. Exposition is a strong word though, given at least one of them is just repeatedly calling out how doomed Hector is and the others are similarly simple lyrically. On top of all of that, there’s only one time where the song actually moved the plot along in any way, and since it was a representative of nicotine hypnotizing all the nearby cells to make them addicted to him, I don’t believe it was necessary to have the sequence be a song.
As you might have guessed from that, this show has the anti-smoking episode that is almost obligatory in edutainment show. That’s what the show is when you get down to it; while most episodes do devolve into Ozzy and Drix fighting the infection of the week, it’s framed through Hector refusing to brush his teeth, or finding out he has an allergy, or overusing a nose spray. But, in one of the show’s strengths, not every episode is like this. For example, one episode deals with the aftereffects of Hector getting a concussion and all the cells except the titular ones losing their recent memory, and another has the mayor give Hector a phobia of swimming after he almost drowned. On top of this, while the lessons being taught are extremely evident (the pilot having Osmosis go on a monologue about how Hector reminds him of Frank at that age, before he gained all of his horrible habits, which doesn’t seem in character), the primary focus of the cartoon is the action. Compared with how preachy the show could’ve been, I can appreciate this. However, the nature of the show can very quickly work against itself.
In each episode, Hector is required to get ill, cause himself an injury, or just gain some unhealthy habit to cause the problem that Ozzy & Drix have to fight. But what little personality he has changes frequently in order to fit the episode. He’s seen in the opening brushing his teeth, yet in the final episode of season 2 he apparently doesn’t and hasn’t for long enough to need fillings. He’s frequently seen playing basketball, skating, and so on, and yet in one episode he’s completely lost interest to the point where he’s almost had an entire artery blocked up with fat. This is one of the most infuriating aspects of the show, the sheer inconsistency of it. Changes between the movie and the cartoon are understandable, it likely wasn’t written with the intention of being a cartoon, and differences between the layout of Frank and Hector are understandable due to them being completely different people (though Frank had a lot more internal sense; the stomach was an airport terminal in the movie, while in the cartoon it’s a frequently used beach with children playing in the tide, even though it’s immediately acknowledged that it would quickly and easily dissolve them into nothing). Internal inconsistencies, however, are not. For example, when Ozzy & Drix save Hector from Scarlet Fever (who, as an aside, is essentially a less suave copy of Thrax from the movie), they’re treated as heroes, and not only are they no longer getting kicked out of the body but are being gifted ‘prime real estate’ in Hector’s eye. But in every following episode, they (Ozzy especially) are treated with nothing but contempt. It’s first shown that the cells can only see what Hector sees through a special feed in the Mayor’s office or through the eye using binoculars, but at some point it ends up being publicly available first through cinemas, and then through tvs. A season 1 episode has the penicillin G injection takes the form of a James Bond knock off, and yet a mouthful of chocolate cereal which Hector frequently eats brings with it several superheroes, with the event being apparently something special and unique. By far the most infuriating example of this is that, in half of the season 2 episodes, Ozzy’s car has an AI which offers some a few quips, but nothing more. By the final episode, there had still been no attempt to even suggest an origin to this. It’s not even a matter of an explaining episode being aired later than planned, the creating studio simply couldn’t be bothered to give an origin episode within the same season. Even if they were unexpectedly cancelled and they planned on making it a third season episode, it isn’t an excuse.
Even without the inconsistencies, this is still a very infuriating show to watch. Much like the aforementioned dancing Drix scene in the intro, the show frequently reuses animation from the movie, most often a shot of the tongue moving in front of an open mouth or two cops reacting to something coming in over the radio. It never fits due to the decrease in animation quality between the movie and the cartoon, and always looks awkward at best. It makes jokes relatively frequently, but not a single one over the 26 episodes landed for me. As far as characters are concerned, Hector changes personality and has his life threatened so often that I’m wondering how he’s still alive instead of actually caring for him, and everyone else is extremely one note. Much like in Osmosis Jones, the characters are their cliches, only this time no one ever goes through character development that holds any degree of impact on the show. And when there are elements that carry over between episodes that give them a definitive canon, such as Drix getting a dog made of dog saliva, it gets rid of the argument that they shouldn’t include major changes for when the show gets syndicated. It just feels all around lazy.
Ozzy & Drix had the opportunity to take what worked with Osmosis Jones and turn it into 20 minute episodes, an idea which worked perfectly well on paper. Yet while I hesitate to say that Osmosis Jones had charm, Ozzy & Drix got rid of all of it, and while it may show how to do an edutainment cartoon well it doesn’t have the material needed to back it up. The lack of interesting characters and good humour persists, and is supported by bad writing, music, and a formula that is stale by the second season in spite of the variations.