Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

FLASHBACKS: The terrible horrible no-good very bad Inspector Gadget, 8/3/1999

This calls for quoting James Brown: “Payback! Revenge! I’m mad!”

The inspiration for this outburst: Disney’s Inspector Gadget.

I’m sorry, I know it’s just a silly kids’ film that critics aren’t supposed to like anyway, but the movie is too loud, too jumpy, too confusing and just too darn overstuffed. It’s a movie where almost everything good about it (which isn’t a lot) was already shown in the commercials and previews. And it’s a movie that had kids in the theater bawling, I think at how unrelentingly loud it is.

Matthew Broderick plays John Brown, a security guard who pines to be a heroic cop and gets the chance when scientist Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher) turns him into the bucket of bolts that is Inspector Gadget, in time to fight the villain Claw (played by the usually-more-interesting-than-this Rupert Everett, whose character speaks with a fluctuating accent).

I should admit: Inspector Gadget is not flat-out absolutely awful, mainly because it’s not as stupidly crude as Wild Wild West. Broderick and Fisher are appealing leads, and Michelle Trachtenberg does well playing John’s level-headed teenage niece Penny. (The movie also gets points for Fisher’s character, a woman scientist who knows herself and what she’s doing. We need more good role models wherever we can find them!)

And I’ll be honest: part of this comes from sour grapes. Why? This movie was shot in Pittsburgh, and this great-looking glass skyscraper appears as the headquarters for the evil Claw. This building had to be used eventually as a comic book villain’s headquarters in a movie, because it looks so darn right for that role. Great, except it was going to be Lex Luthor’s skyscraper in that new Superman movie that has yet to get off the ground. Instead we see it as the HQ for a guy whom Dr. Evil of Austin Powers would call “The Diet Coke of evil – one calorie, not evil enough.” What a waste.*

The movie version of Inspector Gadget moves so fast, it can’t breathe. Scenes practically get into pile-ups, they’re so frantic. The look of the Gadgetmobile (given a voice by D.L. Hughley of ABC’s The Hughleys, and who is kind of funny here) made me flash back to the awful remake of Flubber, like I was having bad indigestion. There are obnoxious computer-generated “bumpers” between scenes that add even more sensory overload to this film.

With the exception of Fisher and Trachtenberg, all the characters are walking-talking cartoons, and they get on my nerves. (Broderick does OK only because he’s supposed to be a human cartoon! That’s the point of the character!)

The movie looks interesting only because Pittsburgh (here portraying a city called Riverton) is an interesting-looking place.

And the Inspector Gadget theme song, whether for the cartoon or the movie, is still just flat-out annoying. Give me the George of the Jungle theme song any day, or any music from The Simpsons or Futurama

Finally, this movie simply isn’t sincere. It’s trying to give a good message, one about the power of the heart – you know, how you need to “have heart.” That’s the message because characters say it at least twice in the movie by reciting “Messages ’R Us”-level dialogue while gentle music plays. Sorry, filmmakers, you need to do better, because this film is so overly cartoony that in the end, what’s the point? Who cares?

Because I’m mad, I’ll gladly spoil the one joke I actually laughed out loud at. As the end credits roll, one of Claw’s henchmen (the sort of guy who, had he been on the 1960s Batman TV series, would’ve had “GOON” written in large letters across his shirt) speaks at a Minion Recovery Group. One of the minions is Richard Kiel – Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me!

But that’s it. That’s all.

You know, when I enjoyed the movie Go a few months ago, I felt it was too bad that that movie had a title which people who didn’t like the flick could make fun of in their reviews. (“Go? No.’ “Go? Don’t.”) I therefore must admit to malice aforethought as I do the exact same thing with the Inspector Gadget theme song: “No, Gadget, no…”

* 2009 note: I’d heard Pittsburgh was scouted in 1997 as a possible location for Metropolis in that Superman film Tim Burton was planning to direct.
Tags: film reviews, flashbacks

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