* * * (1999, 78 minutes, Rated PG)
Oh Ferris, why hast thou forsaken me!
Let me apologize right off the bat. If I were a better movie reviewer, a more disciplined movie
reviewer, I’d be able to discuss the cartoon-turned-live-action prequel Inspector Gadget completely
on its own merit.
But that has proved to be close to impossible, given that I’d just watched the cartoon-turned-live-
action prequel The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas the night before. So you might as well go back
and read that review first. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Yeah, that movie sucked.
So now we turn to the cartoon-turned-live-action prequel that is Inspector Gadget. If you’re
unfamiliar with the character, here’s the formula:
The morning cartoon “Inspector Gadget” followed the Scooby-Doo model of storytelling, in that
every episode was virtually the same:
Every now and then, Nolahn will take a break from
reviewing crappy films no one has ever heard of to review
spectacularly bad films that everyone has heard of. Brace
yourself for another installment of...
CRAP OF THE TITANS!
This entry into THE GAUNTLET II comes to us from Jorge at Strictly
Splatter. Not only is Strictly Splatter a fine purveyor of schlock, sleaze and
gore, it's also home of the B-Movie Meatloaf (which has been mentioned
just a few times on this site).
The film Jorge has selected for THE GAUNTLET II is unlike anything you'd ever find on Strictly Splatter...
an entirely different kind of horror.
So now here comes the live-action adaptation, and I should have hated Inspector Gadget just as
much as I hated The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. But I didn’t hate it. Okay, I didn’t love it, but
there are a number of things Inspector Gadget does surprisingly well:
- The prequel is worth telling. In The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, there was absolutely
no point in making the audience sit through Fred and Wilma’s sitcom-grade relationship
problems, because everyone knows they get married. That wasn’t a story worth telling. How
Inspector Gadget became a Fisher-Price Robocop -- something never addressed in the
cartoon? That’s worth telling.
- No one is doing impersonations. I’m not going to sit here and tell you Inspector Gadget
has Oscar-quality performances. But at least the actors are behaving like actual human
A disguised Chief Quimby interrupts a normal family activity
between Gadget, Penny (Gadget’s niece) and Brain (their dog)
to give him a mission to stop the latest plot by Dr. Claw and
M.A.D, via an exploding message, which then, through Gadgets
actions, blows Quimby up. The episode usually takes Gadget to
some exotic locale and somehow Penny and Brain find a way to
accompany him. Brain keeps Gadget out of trouble from M.A.D.
agents (who Gadget usually mistakes for friendly locals;
ironically, Gadget often mistakes Brain in disguise for a MAD
agent), while Penny solves the case. With the help of Penny
and Brain, Gadget inadvertently saves the day, Dr. Claw
escapes and Chief Quimby arrives to congratulate Gadget on a
job well done.
- Casting Matthew Broderick in the title role. Yes, really.
I can’t believe it, either. I remember being horrified when
this hit the theaters. I dropped to my knees and shouted
to the heavens, “Oh Ferris, why hast thou forsaken me!”
It was all so wrong… But consider this: The cartoon
character was voiced by the fantastic Don Adams, who
made Gadget not just a bumbling clown but a nasally
know-it-all. Broderick, a fine actor, can’t do “nasally
know-it-all.” Instead, we get a Gadget who is extremely
innocent and aggressively clean-cut (while still being a
bumbling clown), and it works really well -- I particularly
like that innocence paired with the analog nature
Gadget’s gadgets. In other words, the film improved on
(I’d say the same about Dr. Claw, but he was always a barely present, one-note villain anyway)
- The film isn’t afraid to get dark. When pre-Gadget Matthew Broderick winds up in a nasty
car crash while pursuing Dr. Claw, Claw blows him up. Immediately afterwards, Dr. Claw’s
hand is pulverized. While these events aren't gory, they aren’t cartoon-y actions done for a
laugh and then forgotten. These actions have consequences and drive the plot forward.
The same is true later in the film, when the Evil Gadget doesn't just run amok but razes the
city into a fiery apocalyptic ruin.
|I wouldn’t call this “dark,” but
the scene where Gadget is
getting gadget lessons from
Joely Fisher -- whom he’s
smitten with -- and he
suddenly and uncontrollably
blasts toothpaste all over
her? Let’s call that
- Andy Dick isn’t allowed to be Andy Dick. My stomach lurched when I saw Andy Dick’s
name in the credits. Turns out that Mr. Dick was given a small and mercifully subdued role.
- No Great Gazoo. No Scrappy-Doo, either, while we’re at it.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Inspector Gadget is a great film. Or even a really good film.
It has a number of problems: leaden gags, some hammy acting, that Evil Gadget, the involvement
of poor Dabney Coleman (who did he piss off to be put in this film?)… they even trot out Smash
Mouth‘s “All Star,” fer cryin’ out loud. But for a family film, it’s pretty good.
At least, it comes off well when compared to The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.