Inspector Gadget (1999)

Inspector Gadget (1999)

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As good as the CGI gets.
As good as the CGI gets.

Twitter Plot Summary: After an accident puts John Brown in hospital, he’s transformed into a robocop. A family friendly one.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy/Family/Sci-Fi

Director: David Kellogg

Key Cast: Matthew Broderick, Michelle Trachtenberg, Rupert Everett, Rene Auberjonois, Andy Dick, Joely Fisher.

Five Point Summary:

1. Yay, the classic Gadget theme song!
2. I think Yahoo paid for some advertising space.
3. Is everything in this universe doused in primary colours?
4. Oh my, that CGI is bad.
5. Good Gadget VS Evil Gadget? No idea how that’s going to turn out. /sarcasm

Hands up if you can name five decent (and heavy emphasis on the word decent) adaptations of old cartoons? For the sake of argument, I don’t think there have been any. Yep, a number have made a huge amount of money, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good. And so, in what’s no doubt a hugely cynical cash-in on an established cartoon franchise, we received Inspector Gadget in 1999, at the peak of the boom in CGI-laden kid’s films.

It’s cut at far too frenetic a pace for a coherent narrative to be formed. At a lean 78 minute running time it does capture the frantic spirit of the cartoon, but it falls into the classic trap that the majority of family films end up in. That is, not worry so much about the story, just do enough to keep the kids happy and, more importantly, keep them quiet for a couple of hours. Except this is only 78 minutes long, so you’ll need to have something else queued up if you need a 2 hour window without the kids hassling you.

I have to call FUBAR on the casting choices. Matthew Broderick as Gadget? Really? He strikes me as an odd pick for the lead. And Rubert Everett as the Claw? As a kid-friendly villain yes of course, he’s fantastic, but as Inspector Gadget’s nefarious nemesis? No, not even close. Even worse is that they fly in the face of tradition and show the Claw’s face. As soon as you realise this guy is the Claw, it’s all horribly downhill from there. Mike Hagerty’s minion is the best character in the film, none more so than during the end credits where he speaks to the Minion Recovery Group. He does have a strange haircut though, I almost didn’t recognise him as that “pink slip” chap in the diner in Wayne’s World.

The Claw. He has a face. No. Just no.
The Claw. He has a face. No. Just no.

The colour palette used in the production is excessively bright – even the wires in Gadget’s surgery are an array of bright greens and purples. The CGI is deliciously ropey, it’s like live action mixed with a particularly bad cartoon. There’s also an obligatory talking car that is one dial down from talking in stereotypical street slang. At least it looks a bit like the one from the cartoon, even if it does come across as an overly animated version of ECTO-1.

As for the story, it’s typical kids fare – once we get through Gadget’s origin story (10 minutes tops), he is sent out into the world to prevent crime, but bungles his way through most of it. Then the nefarious Claw, having stolen elements of the Gadget tech from scientist Rene Oberjonois, builds an evil version of Gadget who starts wreaking havoc across the city. If you get stuck working out which one is which – evil Gadget has big false teeth, you can’t miss him. he’s also acting delightfully evil.

Slapstick humour and the odd amusing quip in the script does however make up for the numerous pitfalls, but it only goes so far as to save it from being an absolutely clunker. More time taken with the story, a less ridiculous colour palette, and recasting both Gadget and the Claw would have made a huge difference.

Favourite scene: Minion Recovery Group. Richard Kiel, Mr T, some guy who’s supposed to be Oddjob, and a few more besides.

Quote:

“Scolex: I deserve a dashing appellation.”
“Kramer: A dashing appellation. What is that? A hillbilly with a tuxedo?”

Silly Moment: Go-Go Gadget Testicle-gripping arm!

Score: 2/5

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