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Inspector Gadget
1999 - PG - 78 Mins.
Director: David Kellogg
Producer: Andy Heyward, Jordan Kerner, Roger Birnbaum
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Michelle Trachtenberg, Michael G. Hagerty
Review by: John Ulmer
Cartoons can often present a medium often otherwise unsuitable for feature films. They are able to conceal an element of unbelievability that would never work in a motion picture. Certain cartoons are energetic, imaginative, and silly. Animated feature films are a different form of film--so why is Hollywood so bent on morphing every successful one into a live action version?

Sometimes this works. Most often it does not. Comic books can translate well to the screen because they are rooted in humanity. Cartoons, specifically the wacky sort, cannot be acted out naturally by humans because the laws of physics in our world and entirely different from that in a cartoon. Almost all examples of this have failed: "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," "Scooby-Doo," and, sadly, "Inspector Gadget," a film which relies heavily on special effects to make it seem like a cartoon, but instead comes off childish and empty.

Matthew Broderick is the title character, John Brown, a security guard at a wacky lab. A mad criminal played by Rupert Everett lays seige to the station where John is situated. The villain, who will later become known as Claw, steals a mechanical robot foot from the lab (to steal it? Who knows, I stopped paying attention.). John gives chase only to end up in a hospital some days later. As for the criminal...he lost his hand in an unfortunate accident post chase, replaced with a mechanical claw by a scientist named Kramer (Andy Dick), whose name was inspired because he shares the same hair-do as Kramer from "Seinfeld."

John's body is a complete mess, and so his body is implemented with an assortment of gadgets and gizmos, ranging from helicopter hats to toothpaste fingers. (Don't ask.) And so a new crimefighting machine is unleashed: Inspector Gadget. He eliminates the threat from the now-peaceful city, and his only obstacle is his arch-nemesis, Claw.

I used to watch "Inspector Gadget" (1983-1985), the afternoon cartoon television show about a bumbling and stupid giant gizmo posing as a police officer. He, his niece and her pet dog would chase criminals. The mastermind of the operation was the niece, who was a big-time computer nerd. She had almost as many gadgets and gizmos as her Uncle Gadget. The show would end every time with some sort of post-message that had something to do with the twenty-minute show that had played prior to the message.

And so being a self-proclaimed fan of the hit television show, I watched "Inspector Gadget" with enthusasm. Half way through I was bored. By the time the movie was over I realized that I was on the edge of my seat--waiting for it all to end. This is a movie so routine and childish in both action and humor and plot, it makes one wonder what in the world went wrong. The director, David Kellogg, had to cut the film's running time from 110 minutes to 78 after a test screening in California was a disaster (unsurprisingly, might I add). Now the film is cut too much--scenes jump about out of place, cut to and from at a rapid pace, and generally induce headaches. I'm surprised people didn't slip into seizures from watching this.

Not only that, but the film as a whole is flawed from the start. It tries to be wacky and energetic and comes across as silly. There's also the "feel" of the film itself--it feels like a bad movie from the start (it carries the same bright, spontaneous feel of "Problem Child" and "Clifford"). Typically when I watch a really bad movie, the badness of it gives me a certain vibe. My radar was going haywire watching "IG," as it is so (un)originally nicknamed.

Matthew Broderick has been called a typecasted actor by Hollywood--ever since his reign in the teen flicks during the 80s (specifically "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). They say he is never offered leading man roles in serious films any more because he is short and looks childish. I won't argue with that--watching "Inspector Gadget," I couldn't stop thinking how much better Broderick was as Bueller. I think Broderick is a talented actor, but sometimes certain actors just don't make the transition from one decade to the next. Especially during the 80s, when so many hit actors washed away upon arrival (Kirk Cameron and the Brat Pack come to mind).

No, Matthew Broderick is not very good as Inspector Gadget. Broderick is especially good in roles where he is the only sane person in the room, where his character seems to pick up on things others can't. (Remember "The Cable Guy"?) Here he is the only insane one in the room--and it doesn't work. He's lacking something that Inspector Gadget needs. I really like Broderick, which is why I don't want to criticize him too much, but I have to honestly admit that he isn't right for the role, and it probably harmed his resume more than any other film he's been in recently.

"Inspector Gadget" is one of those odd bad films that simply have to be seen to be believed. I enjoyed "Clifford" (1993), but it seems no one else did, and I understand why--it is quite silly and all over the place. Somehow I like it, even though I tend to hate energetic, silly, pointless comedies. And "Clifford" has that bad movie feel to it. "Inspector Gadget" oozes of badness. Perhaps I am the only one who notices that certain bad comedies are filmed in the same spontaneous, silly, bright, wild pattern. Whatever. But any way you slice and dice it, "Inspector Gadget" is one flawed film. Gadget's most famous line is, "Wowsers!" After the movie was over, I was saying the same thing...

Note: The voice of Brain the Dog in "Inspector Gadget" (1999) is the voice of Gadget himself from the television show of the same name. And if you look quickly at the post end credits scene (ironically the funniest in the entire movie) involving a henchman group, you may catch a glimpse of Jaws from the James Bond series.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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