July 29, 1999
Inspector Gadget I figured, of all the geeky movies out there, what's not to love about Inspector Gadget? He's a walking machine, and a fond memory for most of us young geeks -- I've been kicked out of class with friends in the past year for singing the song endlessly, and that was before we heard about the movie. He's just cool, though he has no idea what's going on, and his niece Penny, who actually solves all the crimes, is a great geek grrl heroine, complete with nifty computer watch, and a loveable dog smarter than the adults in the cartoon.

Initial reports that Penny and Brain were entirely absent from the film, an outrage to all, were false. Penny and dog are there in fine form, pointing out the painfully obvious to Matthew Broderick's klutzy-but-kind Gadget. While the new, all-heart, all-American incarnation of our favorite crime-fighter is slightly twisted from the incompetent European animated guy we knew, he still manages to satisfy, especially with his slew of awesome live-action special effects.

The biggest heresay in the whole film is The Claw, once the coolest villain on TV. He was evil for evil's sake, fighting Gadget simply because he was his nemesis -- that was enough. More importantly, you NEVER saw The Claw's face. Ever. Now, I love Rupert Everett as much as the next guy -- no, I love Rupert Everett about 150 times more than any guy, *whew*, but his languidly nasty billionaire Scolex is not remotely as frightening as the inherent darkness The Claw should represent. His much-abused scientist Kramer is a hilarious bit from Andy Dick of "NewsRadio", but his dimwitted sidekick Sikes (Michael G. Hagerty) was irritating, and nothing else. It's even explained how he became the Claw -- and it's Gadget's fault! It makes you feel vaguely sorry for the fellow! On the other hand, he won't scare your three-year-old.

No, leave that to the classic evil superhero twin, Robo-Gadget, Claw's evil android creation, intended to manipulate the public into hating Inspector Gadget. Um, exactly how many times have we seen this plotline? Robo-Gadget is scary too, I mean, I had trouble sleeping last night! The only good thing about the entire use of the character was one good Godzilla one-liner, and that was hardly funny as it's been done about 600 times, and was funny only in Jurassic Park, where it was subtle.

Another character written for the movie, on the other hand, was fantastic. Dr. Brenda Bradford (predictably a love interest for Gadget) creates a suitable car for our hero, the GadgetMobile, a talking 1963 Lincoln convertible that drives itself. I want that car. Corny or no, the jokes cracked by the feisty car were the funniest part of the movie, and, hey, it's a cool car, something every movie should have. Two other features of the film were Cheri Oteri (you know her from SNL) as the hyperactive, publicity-obsessed, perfectly portrayed town mayor, and the catchy "Inspector Gadget Theme Song," which I've been kicked out of class (this year) for singing endlessly... several times. Disney wisely decided not to mangle the song to the extreme; in fact, it's hardly tweaked at all. Good thing - if they killed this the way they destroyed the "Doug" theme, I'd have headed over to the Magic Kingdom with a bomb strapped to my chest. On that note, there are some nice self-jabbing Disney jokes in this movie, though not as mean as I'd like.

So, do you see it or not?

Unless you have kids, whether you see this ultimately comes down to how strong your Inner Geek is. The Gadget Within us all is dying to have an appliance in each finger and babelfish.altavista.com-style translator factory installed in our brains, not to mention a car which can hone in on our signal when something bad happens. Be prepared for fake science, obviously - during security guard John Brown's transformation to Inspector Gadget, comlex surgeries are performed using marbles and garden hoses. When the Claw steals the crucial amplifier chip, Gadget can bring himself back to life if he only has enough heart. There is, however, less fake science than in "The Thirteenth Floor," and it's not actually supposed to be real.

If you do have kids, don't worry! There are enough grown-up jokes to keep you awake through most of it, including a sly Austin Power nod or two, if you pay attention. Just be careful afterward to keep your tykes from leaping off any rooftops shouting "Go Go Gadget copter!"
Hey, didn't we all try that once?

-- by fenchurch Posted by Arcterex at July 29, 1999 03:44 PM