Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Inspector Gadget

By Hollis Chacona

AUGUST 2, 1999: 

D: David Kellogg; with Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Andy Dick, Michelle Trachtenberg, Cheri Oteri. (PG, 80 min.)

Like an 80-minute-long Ginsu knives commercial, Inspector Gadget keeps throwing more and more cheesy enticements at us in an attempt to make us buy this frenetic pastiche of special effects as a piece of cogent entertainment. Matthew Broderick stars as John Brown, a mild-mannered do-gooder who single-handedly stops runaway buses and rescues little children from harm's way to the cheering adoration of the good folks on his dreamland police beat. During his waking hours, though, reality relegates the sweet-faced security guard to patroling the parking lot of Bradford Research. There he pines after the beautiful Dr. Brenda Bradford (Fisher) who, with her father, Artemis, is working on lifelike robotics that respond, not to brain waves, but to energy emanating from the heart. When dastardly Sanford Scolex (Everett) steals the robotic foot they've created, killing Artemis in the process, John vows revenge and takes off after the scoundrel (in what is the funniest sight gag in the movie). In the ensuing chase, Scolex loses his hand, (hence the appellation "Claw") and John gets blown to smithereens and can only be patched back together with Brenda's wizardry. He emerges from his body-cast cocoon as Inspector Gadget, a sort of Robo-rent-a-cop. Like the cartoon on which it's based, Inspector Gadget has moments of absurd fun and droll wit, but they are fleeting and few. Broderick is too stiff for the dopey detective, (given voice in the original by Don Adams, who makes a cameo voice appearance here) while Rupert Everett manages to overplay his cartoon villain with outlandish mincing and rubberface sniveling. And if there exists a more annoying actress than Cheri Oteri (playing the mayor who can't wait to replace the entire police force with Gadgets), I haven't seen her. Still, the entire cast is eclipsed by the nonstop effects of two warring androids (good Gadget and bad Gadget clone), who can shoot flames with their fingers, extend hydraulic stilts from their shoes, and produce helicopters from fedoras simply by saying, "Go go, gadget helicopter" (or whatever gadget they need at the moment). The film's editing is perplexing, with most scenes being cut short mid-stride while others last beyond their peak. Of course when you're sitting down the row from a six-year-old boy who is audibly delighting in each booming explosion and every oil slick-squirting pinky, these seem like petty grievances. Sometimes parenthood requires that we buy slickly packaged, enticingly marketed goods even when we know better. But wait! There's more! If you make it all the way to the end of Inspector Gadget, you get a free gift! The cleverest part of the whole movie is slipped in under the closing credits, a wry little joke about Claw's evil-minion support group, starring some of cinema's most infamous bad guys. A small gift considering the purchase, but a gift nonetheless.

1.5 Stars

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