Inspector Gadget (1999)
Directed by David Kellogg
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Michelle Trachtenberg, Michael G. Hagerty, Cheri Oteri, Dabney Coleman, Andy Dick, Rene Auberjonois, Frances Bay.
1999 77 minutes
Rated: (for mild violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 25, 1999.
The question abounds: Why is it that every single year Walt Disney Pictures will release a big summer animated movie that is usually of high quality, both enjoyable and smart enough for kids and adults alike, and yet they constantly are willing to churn out live-action films that are about as fun as having a root canal done...without being put to sleep or given any form of medication. I just don't understand it. "That Darn Cat," "My Favorite Martian," "Meet the Deedles," "Flubber," "101 Dalmatians," and "Inspector Gadget," which is the worst of the lot, by the way. Did anyone who made these films, the director, the cast, the producers, the studio, for once actually believe that they were making a worthwhile film for families that was both intelligent and entertaining, heartfelt and truthful, funny and clever? If they ever did believe such a story, they were either brainwashed, fooling themselves, or under the heavy influence of LSD. There is, simply put, no excuse at all for Disney, or any other high-profile studio for that matter, to be unleashing such vile garbage unto the world that does not have one redeeming element to be found anywhere. I've got news for you, Disney: these live-action movies you are making are not enjoyable for the entire family; they are demeaning and show that you have no respect for any sort of thinking human audience at all. Check out such non-Disney family film winners, such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "A Christmas Story," and "Prancer." Maybe studying these wonderful entertainments that do not talk down to children or grown-ups will knock some sense into you.
Based on the early-'80s animated series, "Inspector Crap-on-it," oh, I mean "Gadget," the movie follows John Brown (Matthew Broderick, whose career has been shot to hell once again after appearing in the brilliant satire, "Election"), a single security guard who cares for his young, precocious niece, Penny (Michelle Trachtenberg), and longs for beautiful scientist Brenda (Joely Fisher). When the villainous Sanford Scolex (Rupert Everett) breaks into Brenda's lab, killing her father (Rene Auberjonois) and stealing their research projects, John comes to the rescue, but in the process is blown up in his car, and Sanford himself accidentally gets his hand severed. In appreciation, Brenda decides to save John's life by putting to use her latest invention, and before long John Brown is Inspector Gadget, a part-human/part-mechanical creation that has the ability to do almost anything, with some sort of gadget or weapon planted into each of his body parts. Meanwhile, Sanford has constructed a claw-like device to be put on his hand and changes his name to Claw, "one word...like Madonna." Hardee-har-har! Anyway, Claw invents a robotic replica of Inspector Gadget who is set out to destroy everything in its path, including John.
You know, I could have been generous and given "Inspector Gadget" a marginally kinder 1/2-star rating, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was not one scene, element, or even frame that I could honestly say I liked while looking someone straight in the eyes. The story is brief (thank the Lord!), but makes no actual sense, with little clouds coming up from Inspector Gadget's head now and then to show him using one of his many gadgets to good use. But how does this actually fit into the plot at hand? Better yet, how did the haphazard screenplay, by the clearly-talentless duo of Kerry Ehrin and Zak Penn, get past the written page? And even better yet, why would Disney spend millions and millions of dollars on this instantly forgettable, ineffective piece of junk when they could instead be making generous donations to help out the sick, disabled, and needy?
The movie may think it's funny, but I've got news for it: I lightly, and quickly, laughed once during the interminable 77-minute running time, and that was only thanks to Saturday Night Live talent Cheri Oteri (who is otherwise criminally wasted as the town's goofy mayor). The rest of the movie has scene after mindless scene pounding the audience with almost non-stop action, effects, chaos, and cheap humor. Did you see character development or simple charm on that list? I didn't think so.
"Inspector Gadget" is unredeemably bad, and shockingly so. I wasn't expecting a masterpiece going into the theater, but the film also sunk well below the lowest expectation that could have possibly occurred in my mind. Every actor should not only be embarrassed to have appeared in this film, but they should change their names in private and hide out for a couple years until everyone has forgotten about this worthless piece of shameful celluloid. I'm not going to mention any actors, but you can take a gander at my cast listing up above to decide for yourself what could have possibly gone wrong. "Inspector Gadget" is one of the few movies I've seen in which every cast and crew member involved should have billed themselves as Alan Smithee. Maybe Disney should even change their name after this debacle, but not to "Alan Smithee." They should change it to "sell-out."
©1999 by Dustin Putman