Inspector Gadget

There are two Inspector Gadgets in this movie, both played by Matthew Broderick: the Good Gadget and the Bad Gadget. If you are 8 or under, which seems to be the target audience for this film, you will root for the Good and laugh at the Bad. But if you are old enough to go out in the lobby to buy your own popcorn you will find yourself cheering for Bad Gadget. He has terrible teeth but at least his non-stop evilness makes you laugh. He is more like the Matthew Broderick we know and love and less like Andy Griffith imitating Don Knotts.

Inspector Gadget has the feel of a movie whose computer graphics came to life and took over the art department. Computer-assisted gizmos and robots are everywhere, seamlessly layered into the live action. Rear screens, blue screens, animatronics, effects loops, rear projections – they must be a lot of fun to create but they run miles ahead of the very thin story. Again, this may feel familiar and welcoming to an audience of zero-attention-span baby sisters and brothers. Teenagers, though, as well as their parents, might have a tougher time not wishing they could say "Go Gadget Go! Lobby!"

The cast is very good. Broderick, though limited by technological demands, is a good Good Gadget, and an even better Bad Gadget. Saturday Night Live‘s Cheri Oteri is a hysterical Mayor Wilson, News Radio‘s Andy Dick a disjointed sidekick, Dabney Coleman his eternally seamy Chief Quimby, and Rupert Everett the excellent and villainous Sanford Scolex. Less wonderful are the gadgets, particularly the comedy car with the irritating street-edged voice that begins to run into the JarJar Binks school of ethnic effrontery. There are many high-tech hi-jinx credits that need to be mentioned, among them Stan Winston’s animatronics and Dream Quest’s motion techniques.

There are some good lines: when Broderick’s security cop John Brown has had his entire insides replaced by electronics to enable him to become Inspector Gadget, he is called "Columbo and Nintendo all in one!" Bad movie fans will love it when Gadget recreates Daniel Day-Lewis’s infamous jump-off-the-cliff-scene from The Last of the Mohicans. "Just stay alive!" he cries. "Whatever happens I will find you!"

But in the end this is a small film with enormous techno-glitz. It may become a summer hit, once parents and grandparents learn they can take their children to see a wholesome film where the most profane word is "Wowser!"

For the rest of us: "Go Gadget Go! Lobby!" "Go Gadget Go! Popcorn!" "Go Gadget Go! Parking Lot!"

Doug Konecky

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