Osmosis Jones (PG); <br></br>Gabriel and Me (15); <br></br>This Filthy Earth; <br></br> New Year's Day (18)<br></br>The Animal (12)

Cartoon colons, the angel Gabriel and pikes in pubs
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The Independent Culture

Say what you like about Osmosis Jones (PG), it certainly gets inside the main character's head. Not only that, it gets inside his armpits, his bladder, his stomach and his spleen.

Most of the film is a cartoon set within the body of Frank (Bill Murray), a slobbish zookeeper. At a microscopic level, his innards are a futuristic megalopolis, and his cells are all people. There's Mayor Phlegmming, who promises that every hair cell left unemployed by baldness will get a job on Frank's back. There's the bowel-dwelling opposition candidate, Tom Colonic – "a regular guy". And there's Osmosis Jones, a white blood cell who grew up on the wrong side of the digestive tract. With the aid of Drix, a visiting cough sweet, Jones must repel a vampiric germ named – unfortunately – Thrax.

The cartoon is infectious fun. It leaves no kidney stone unturned in its quest for body-related puns and belly laughs, and the artwork is wacky and bright. Indeed, it's a lot less two-dimensional than the live-action segments. The movie's schtick is that we see the outside of Frank, as well, in sequences directed by the Farrelly brothers. But from the look of these lacklustre interruptions, they must have been shot with a camcorder over the course of a weekend. If Osmosis Jones has a sequel, it should have more liver action and less live action.

Gabriel & Me (15) is a tasteless mush of sentimental fantasy and northern austerity. I don't know who comes off worst – Billy Connolly, wearing too much eyeliner as the Archangel Gabriel; Iain Glenn, who fights a losing battle with cancer and a Geordie accent; or Lee Hall, who wrote the script of Billy Elliot before writing this horrible Billy Elliot cash-in.

The first release from FilmFour's experimental arm, FilmFour Lab, is This Filthy Earth (15). And if you reckon the title is uncommercial, wait until you see the movie. In the first 15 minutes we're shown a cow being impregnated, a hen being plucked, a blister being pierced and a dead pike being taken to the pub. The Darling Buds of May it ain't. Writer-director Andrew Kötting has set his squalid tragedy in a rural community of vicious, half-witted crones, and his expressionist editing makes it yet more grotesque. Much as I hate to fall back on the most over-used of critical formulae, This Filthy Earth really is like Thomas Hardy on acid. It's destined to get more awards than viewers, but you have to hand it to Kötting. Films this extreme, perverse and singleminded don't come along very often.

New Year's Day (18) is about two teenagers whose classmates are killed in an avalanche on a ski trip. Stricken by survivor's guilt, the boys pledge to leap off a cliff in a year's time, once they've ticked off all the tasks they've set themselves, from robbing a bank to burning down the school.

At times, the movie can be as conceited and adolescent as its protagonists. But, like This Filthy Earth, it has much more verve than most British releases, and the sharp dialogue, written by the actor Ralph Brown, proves that he can be funny even when he's not wielding a Camberwell Carrot in Withnail and I.

The Animal (12) is another vehicle for a former Saturday Night Live comedian, hence it doesn't know whether to be a proper film or a string of sketches. Still, it'll go down well enough with a takeaway pizza on video. And anyway, you can't blame a film called The Animal for being dumb.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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