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Inspector Gadget

Review by Elias Savada
Posted 23 July 1999

  Directed by David Kellogg.

Starring Matthew Broderick,
Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher,
Michelle Trachtenberg, Andy Dick,
Cheri Oteri, Michael G. Hagerty,
and Dabney Coleman.

Screenplay by Kerry Ehrin and Zak Penn,
from a story by Dana Olsen and Kerry Ehrin,
based on characters created by
Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin, and Bruno Biancho.

Don’t look too far to validate a reason to pay good money to watch this sad excuse for a film. The answer is probably sitting next to you, but only if your neighbor is a over-active, hyper-kinetic toddler. Anyone over ten would be better off watching re-runs of The Cleo Awards. Director David Kellogg, whose bio heralds him as "one of the industry’s most influential young commercial directors," falls flat when he takes his talent (or lack thereof) to the big screen. From making television spots to besmirching an old television staple, Kellogg will not win any high marks. A jingle from my youth went something like "K-E-double L-Oh-Double Good. Kellogg’s good for you." Not even close. This one’s gone stale. Good grief, if Hollywood isn’t going to do justice to the small screen, as it did with The Fugitive or The Brady Bunch, leave the idiot box alone. Couch potatoes unite!

Gadget’s f/x-laden, script-deficient effort is a queasy blend of Six Million Dollar Man, Robocop (actually closer to the kinder, gentler third film in that series), Maxwell Smart, and garishly colored cotton candy. The animated inspector, who began his sleuthing days in 1983 as a doodle by Andy Heyward, has become the Mickey Mouse boob-tube equivalent for then-Paris-based DIC Enterprises. But now the powerful rodent paws of the great animation god of Hollywood have debasingly enlivened this comic book violent Clouseau into another failed concept at the hands of a decidedly uncreative team that caters to keystone komedy Barney fans (the Gadget Mobile’s plush interior surprisingly close in color to the "I Love You. You Love Me" television educator). TV veteran Don Adams, who originally voiced the cartoon character’s befuddling lines, has a small audio cameo at the film’s conclusion. Only old timers like me are probably going to catch this homage as viewers flee to the exits. There are several throwaway scenes populating the end credits, but at the screening I caught the projectionist jarringly halted the showing as something called The Minion Recovery Group (featuring brief appearances by Richard Kiel, Mr. T, and others) was being unreeled. I assume more lackluster antics followed in the wake of the film’s sorrowful tail.

Perhaps the mouse factory envisioned luring the same audience that admired the childish nature of Phantom Menace, it’s screenplay demoted to elementary school level by George Lucas. Think again. It’s pretty obvious that Disney’s market-driven intention here is for a quick week or two theatrical run for this Magoo of a film, then prop this lifeless title up in the home video mix for Christmas release. It’s destined for sell through -- it’s bright imagery (by director of photography Adam Greenberg), quick clip editing (Academy Award winner Thom Noble), and bongish sound effects will entrance youngsters on the small screen for hours, clueless that they are watching what is basically a piece of crap. The overblown music by John Debney was as uninspired as his work on My Favorite Martian.

The screenplay by Kerry Ehrin and Zak Penn flatlines quickly into dumbsense as fledgling Riverton City (née Pittsburgh) security guard John Brown (Matthew Broderick), whose brain isn’t much bigger than a pea but heart is supposedly in the right cliché, is selected for a "top secret" (yeah, right) law enforcement project spearheaded by the beautiful scientist Dr. Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher). The mushy love interest is pretty much a one-way attraction as our innocent, cock-eyed, bionic optimist is pre-occupied battling slow wits with megalomaniacal tycoon Sanford Scolex, a.k.a. "Claw." Gifted comedy actor Rupert Everett (An Ideal Husband, My Best Friend’s Wedding) attempts to put a best comic spin on a dastardly creature modeled after any of the James Bond enmities. It doesn’t work, sadly, because every damn role in this thing is paper-thin stereotyped up the wazoo, be it the bubbly, vainglorious mayor (SNL’s Cheri Oteri), the obstinate, misanthropic police chief (Dabney Coleman), or Gadget’s precocious niece Penny (Harriet the Spy’s Michelle Trachtenberg).

This is arguably one of the summer’s more forgettable films (along with Wild, Wild West and Mystery Men). If this new breed of super hero catches on (early box office grosses suggest it showing a strong number two finish opening weekend behind The Haunting), it saddens my faith in the audiences pampering to this stuff. I think the summer heat is affecting people everywhere if they insist on parting with seven or eight bucks to see films like this.

No! No! Gadget!

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