Wowser! Disney’s “Inspector Gadget” turbo-charges to life in a wild and quirky adventure comedy with a thousand moving parts!
During a daring rescue attempt, John Brown (MATTHEW BRODERICK), a rather naive and clueless security guard, experiences the wrath of the evil Dr. Claw (RUPERT EVERETT) and is left clinging to life. Jumping at the chance to put her robotics expertise to the test, the brilliant Dr. Brenda Bradford (JOELY FISHER) transforms him into Inspector Gadget — the ultimate crime-fighting tool! And Gadget is going to need every techno-trick up his cyber-sleeve to defeat the ruthless Claw — before Claw reduces our hero to spare parts and wreaks havoc on the world! Nonstop action, seamless special effects, and a gazillion gizmos make “Inspector Gadget” a hilarious techno-thrill ride the whole family will watch over and over.
Michelle did what she had to do with the stupid script given. She did such a great job she was recognized twice for her appearance in this silly film. Even though the film only received one star out of four, Michelle was recognized as having given a great performance, albeit in a “superfluous” part in a rediculous film. If you read the Disney promo above, you will find the “real” scoop given by James Berardinelli, below, to be very interesting. Just in case you don’t read the entire review, you need to be aware of this comment by James Berardinelli, “The lone actor to leave a positive impression is young Michelle Trachtenberg (Harriet the Spy), whose work as John’s niece, Penny, is lively, even though her part is superfluous.” And this is why she was honored with an award and a nomination.
Inspector Gadget (1999)
A Film Review by James Berardinelli
United States, 1999
U.S. Release Date: 7/23/99 (wide)
Running Length: 1:15
MPAA Classification: PG (Mild profanity, sexual innuendo, cartoon violence)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Michelle Trachtenberg,
Dabney Coleman, Andy Dick, Michael G. Hagerty, Cheri Oteri
Director: David Kellogg
Producers: Jordan Kerner, Roger Birnbaum, Andy Heyward
Screenplay: Kerry Ehrin and Zak Penn
Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Music: John Debney
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Disney has struck once again, taking a passably entertaining cartoon and turning it into a motion picture so lifeless that it’s almost unwatchable. In recent years, 101 Dalmatians, Mr. Magoo, and George of the Jungle have fallen afoul of this approach (although, to be fair, George wasn’t a horrible movie). Now, the same pointless regurgitation has been applied to Inspector Gadget. It’s almost as if the studio can’t stop itself. Is there really a market out there for this film (aside from the usual group of parents desperate to find something suitable for their kids)? Somehow, I doubt it, but that hasn’t stopped Disney from dragging the “Inspector Gadget” concept out of mothballs and grafting it onto a live-action format that has all the appeal of roadkill left to stink in the summer heat.
Done right, Inspector Gadget could have been cute, clever, humorous, and satirical. Done wrong, it has resulted in a dull and unfunny adventure that’s starving for an injection of energy. All but the most discriminating children will probably be entertained, but the same won’t be true of the parents trapped in theaters with them. Disney has crafted this motion picture for those who enjoy the novelty of being in a multiplex without caring about the quality of the product on the screen. Those who attend because of the nostalgia generated by memories of the original cartoon (or those who have seen it in recent re-runs) will quickly recognize that Inspector Gadget should have been left in its animated, small-screen format.
The film is divided into two sections. The first deals with the origin of the Inspector (Matthew Broderick). The second has him facing his arch-nemesis, the dastardly Claw (Rupert Everett). When we first meet John Brown (Broderick), he’s just an average security guard with dreams of becoming a policeman and saving the life of Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher), a lady scientist he has a crush on. One night, Brenda’s lab is plundered and her father is killed. Leaping into his hatchback, John sets off in pursuit of a mysterious black limousine, but it’s not a successful chase. His car crashes and explodes, leaving him hospitalized in a full body cast with numerous internal injuries and 44 fractures. Brenda, however, has a way to save him: make him the prototype for a new race of cybernetic policemen – a “sophisticated network of tissue, hardware, and software” (or, as another character puts it, “Columbo, Nintendo all rolled into one”). Thus is born Inspector Gadget, a low-rent Robocop who has nearly every kind of gizmo imaginable hidden under his trench coat. Meanwhile, Claw, a suave, sinister master criminal, has decided that he wants Brenda’s research for his own evil reasons, and will stop at nothing to get it – including creating an amoral Gadget replica.
As anyone who has read my reviews knows, I’m a fan of Rupert Everett. I consider him to be one of the most talented actors working today. In films like Cemetery Man, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and An Ideal Husband, he has shown tremendous charisma and a manifest aptitude for comedy. However, not even Everett can make Inspector Gadget enjoyable. He tries, giving an over-the-top performance as Claw, but his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. He is also handicapped by a bad, borderline-incoherent script and a lack of exposure. Unfortunately, too much screen time is accorded to Matthew Broderick, who is simply awful as the Inspector. His is a bland, unappealing performance, matched only by the work of Joely Fisher, whose portrayal of Brenda is instantly forgettable. The lone actor to leave a positive impression is young Michelle Trachtenberg (Harriet the Spy), whose work as John’s niece, Penny, is lively, even though her part is superfluous.
Inspector Gadget has a rushed, unfinished feel. As easy as it would be to charge director David Kellog for this fault, he’s probably only partially to blame. The movie appears to have undergone a major overhaul in the editing room. Three things argue for this: many of the transitions are ragged and poorly handled, several subplots appear to have been partially excised, and about 50% of the scenes shown in the preview never occur in the final cut. Then there’s the running length which, without the closing credits, clocks in at a skinny 70 minutes. Of course, since this work was designed to improve the product, it begs one question: how bad was Inspector Gadget in its original, uncondensed version?
Given the lack of family fare playing in theaters this summer, many parents will doubtlessly be tempted by the lure of Inspector Gadget’s PG rating (not to mention Disney’s family-friendly image). My advice is to resist the temptation and hold out for two weeks. On August 6, Warner Brothers will release an animated feature called The Iron Giant. It is everything that Inspector Gadget isn’t – an enthralling blend of adventure and humor. Skipping Inspector Gadget in favor of The Iron Giant may turn out to be the best movie-related decision anyone could make this summer.
© 1999 James Berardinelli