Inspector Gadget 1999
This movie was chosen as part of a monthly poll over on this site’s Patreon. For just $1 a month you can help choose one of the movies I review here as well as early access for certain articles. It helps cover the cost of running this site and will hopefully help expand it in the future. As for the film, I was a fan of the Inspector Gadget cartoon back in the 80’s when I was a kid but by the time the live action film had come around I was pretty much an adult and had outgrown it. Besides the fact that it looked like it barely had anything to do with the cartoon at all and just took the facade and made it into a cookie cutter live action Disney family flick. And that’s pretty much what this is. It has all the bits and pieces of Inspector Gadget aside from completely changing absolutely everything about Dr. Claw, but it barely resembles the whole of the cartoon and was not entertaining or well made at all.
Matthew Broderick plays John Brown who’s a security guard with dreams of becoming an officer and a heart much bigger than his brain. At least that’s what we’re told by his niece Penny. Rather than giving us a fully fledged Inspector Gadget character, they decided to go with an origin story where a scientist is working out the kinks of a robotic foot that can be moved with brain power. And yet when the foot is stolen and John the security guard gets injured in a family friendly Alex Murphy sort of way, they suddenly have the ability to go full bore and turn him straight up into Inspector Gadget. But they still have a tragedy with Joely Fisher’s scientist father dying just off screen. And while they make a point to say that the robotics are controlled by the user’s heart rather than their brain, they’re also very specifically voice activated starting with “go go gadget” because they just had to explain that rather than just go with it.
All of the tie ins to the original cartoon felt very forced and awkward. None of the gadgets make sense for any sort of law enforcement. Although the combative relationship between Gadget and Chief Quimby does actually make sense here as Gadget was put on the force with no real training or experience, just gadgets. The trenchcoat and hat felt like an afterthought but presented in a very symbolic way that ultimately meant nothing. And while they went to great care to include so many details about Inspector Gadget’s character and most well known gadgets, they completely changed everything about Dr. Claw with no rhyme or reason. In the cartoon he was this faceless remote presence that was only seen as a voice, a metallic hand, and a cat. In this movie, he’s handsome Rupert Everett whose hand gets replaced with a mechanical claw, so he decides that he should go by the name “Claw”. Just “Claw”. Penny and Brain make out just a little bit better but they don’t really come into their own until the very end.
The humor overall was overly childish and full of cartoonish sound effects like when Gadget looks at Fisher’s butt right after becoming a cyborg and lets out a screeching monkey sound effect. They also introduce a fully robotic version of Gadget created by Claw and also played by Broderick with black eye contact lenses and cartoon style false teeth who goes on a rampage to sully Gadget’s good name. As far as his personality goes, there’s also never really the overlying sense that Broderick’s Gadget is completely oblivious but still stumbles into the correct course of action outside of his first act of heroism. He is led to a couple car thieves via the AI Gadgetmobile, they had just broken out of prison yet he helps them break into the car thinking they had just lost their keys. The gadgetmobile captures one of them, and he bumbles into stopping the second, but that style of heroism is never repeated throughout the rest of the movie. He’s stuck rescuing kittens for a while then eventually goes after Claw and his robotic double.
The only really well done moments in this film happen at the very end. Penny is able to reason with the one dimwitted henchman and he goes to a minions anonymous meeting that’s filled with actors known for playing random henchmen like Richard Kiel and Richard Lee-Sung who played henchmen in the Bond films. Afterwards, we also see Penny working on the video watch that was also well known in the series and uses a version of it to give a voice to the dog Brain, and when he speaks it’s the voice of Don Adams who was the original voice for Inspector Gadget. All in all, it was a pretty poor movie that was just a lot of running around, flailing with cheesy gadgets using poor CGI effects until it finally ended. In a way, the sequel was almost better because they didn’t have to waste time with the origin story. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.