Inspector Gadget’s Last Case
Inspector Gadget’s Last Case: Claw’s Revenge 2002
This post was brought about by a monthly Patreon vote, if you’d like to influence what movies I review and support this site, you can join for as little as $1 a month at Patreon.com/FlightsTightsAndMovieNights. This was one of a handful of movies that I found on Tubi that I hadn’t covered, most of them are extremely low budget and/or foreign animation tossed into the home video and streaming market. I was a fan of the original Inspector Gadget cartoon and also reviewed the two live-action movies here but haven’t been familiar with the various later incarnations of the character. This movie doesn’t really feel much like an Inspector Gadget story at all, especially with such a strong focus on the Gadgetmobile which wasn’t even a character in the original cartoon. It really almost felt like a completely different story with some Inspector Gadget trappings tossed into it.
For a movie titled Inspector Gadget’s Last Case there really isn’t a very big focus on this being his last case, and of course it actually isn’t as the film ends in a typical sitcom status quo where everything goes back to normal. The only real hint of this being his last case is that he gets taken off the force for about ten minutes in the third act. The film spends much more time focusing on the Gadgetmobile which seems to be on its last legs with constant repairs despite one of those mechanical failures being a flat tire which really has nothing to do with the car’s age since that’s a pretty commonly replaced part. The villainous plot of the film involves Dr. Claw developing a transforming potion that makes his henchmen bigger but also turns him into a completely different looking person which he uses to become a dashing superhero in his own right.
It’s difficult to make much sense of Dr. Claw’s plan as he uses his own version of the potion to turn himself into Devon Debonair, a superhero that seemingly only defeats Dr. Claw’s own minions. It would have made more sense if he had been using his superhero persona to defeat rival criminals rather than his own henchmen and other villains that he hired himself. There’s also an element where he is selling his transformation formula to other villains for a tidy profit, although once again his villainy skills come into question as his money laundering consists of keeping cash in cartoon bags with dollar signs on the side all over his lair.
Inspector Gadget himself feels like a similar, yet very different character and is almost overshadowed by Gadgetmobile and his impending retirement. He’s shown as being a lot more competent and less clumsy than how he was portrayed in the 80’s cartoon series. There is still an element of bumbling when Dr. Claw as Devon Debonair tricks him into breaking his minions out of prison. Yet again another missed opportunity for Claw to pin the escape on Gadget and allow his minions to go free, instead he merely uses this as an example of Gadget’s incompetence and yet another excuse to show off Debonair’s heroics. On top of that, series mainstays Penny and Brain are mostly sidelined and kept at home. Brain only gets one outing to help Gadget and even then he only finds the bottle of transformation serum that clues them into the fact that Claw is Debonair. He doesn’t get to do any of his typical rescues that turn Gadget’s bumbling clumsiness into accidental heroics.
Meanwhile we have this entire story arc dedicated to Gadgetmobile and his replacement R2K. Gadgetmobile has the breakdown at the beginning followed by another moment shortly afterwards that leads him to “retirement” aka he gets sent to Super Eddies used car lot where he meets up with a couple other superhero mobiles from the 50’s and 70’s along with the threat of the crusher. A threat that feels very much empty considering that there’s still a car from the 50’s and 70’s sitting right next to him. Way too much time is given to this car subplot with the snooty high tech replacement car that drops Gadget immediately when he also gets kicked off the force. It also makes little sense when Claw as Debonair decides to buy Gadgetmobile, rebrand him as the Debonairmobile, and he actually becomes a success again with zero breakdowns and a superhero car of the year award. This completely puts the blame for Gadgetmobile’s failures on Gadget himself yet the film completely ignores that element and gives a feel good wrap up at the end where Gadgetmobile and the other two cars save the day at the end.
All in all, this film feels like it doesn’t really find its place. It is too different a formula from the classic 80’s series to appeal to fans of the original despite Maurice Lamarche’s respectable attempt at recreating Don Adams’ voice for Gadget. And everything else is so bland that it doesn’t make a name for itself as a brand new property. Gadgetmobile’s character is completely defined by the fact that he’s old and broken down. He doesn’t really have a personality outside of that. Claw feels like a different character as well, complaining about Madcat’s shedding and an ill-defined plan as a rival superhero busting his own men on multiple occasions. There’s just so little to latch onto here outside of being a mediocre distaction for children. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.