by Ryan Arthur
If there were ever any argument that the House Of Mouse should stick with animation and leave the live action stuff to other studios, Inspector Gadget would be the two-word deal-sealer.I wanted to like Gadget, really, I did. I thought it might be a chance for Matthew Broderick to really cut loose, to kind of break away from the straight-faced approach he's been taking for most of his roles of late. I looked forward to the opportunity of seeing Rupert Everett ham it up even more than he did in Dunston Checks In (no small feat, that). I wanted to see Joely Fisher in really tight clothing in (ahem) a kids' movie. I thought it might be the right blend of comedy and action and cheese and effects. I thought it might make me look back with fondness on the cartoon that I liked quite a lot when I was growing up.
"It's Disney's take on Batman & Robin."
I. Hated. It.
Disney has essentially tried to make a live action cartoon, not a new experiment by any means, but this is one that fails miserably. The story is this: John Brown (Broderick) is a security guard, a bumbling screw-up (because movie security guards always are) who works for a lab wher a flighty professor (because movie brainiacs always are) has figured out how to join flesh and technology. There's a break-in, orchestrated by the evil Sanford Scolex (Everett), who wants to swipe the technology for himself. In the ensuing chase, Scolex loses a hand and Brown is basically toasted...until the professor's daughter (Fisher) decides to save him by turning him into a supercop that's part man, part machine, all lame.
Brown becomes Inspector Gadget, Scolex becomes Claw, the movie becomes tedious. The buildup and chase is on, complete with an Evil RoboGadget, a robot construct of Claw's meant to slander the real Gadget's name. Wackiness (and by wackiness I mean overwhelming boredom) ensues.
Gadget borrows liberally from The Mask, Bond movies, Last Of The Mohicans, other Disney movies (Flubber being the most obvious, unfortunately), and Saturday morning 'toons. Even with the framework of the cartoon in place, the movie veers off at times, and even those tangents are covered in other films (and covered better, I might add). The movie seems content to rip off everyone else, and attempt to make amends for that by giving the film cheesy cartoon sound effects: character raises an eybrow to the tune of a slide whistle, character runs in place then takes off in a bolt to the sound of a cara revving up and peeling out, things like that. It's tiresome. Much like the "acting" of Cheri Oteri, who continues to prove just how worthless she truly is. Hey, look, she's playing a bumbling idiot again, let's laugh! Awfully early in the career to be considered one-note, isn't it Cheri?
I wish the film had a saving grace, but I really can't find one. Even amid Schumacher's gay Fantasia that was Batman & Robin, there was the framework for what could have been a solid story about the nature of family. Hell, even Bio-Dome had the deep-seeded hope that somehow, both Stephen Baldwin and Pauly Shore would die in some horrible, violent, painful way during filming. Gadget is awash in overacting (Everett), wooden acting (Broderick, except for when he's RoboGadget, then it becomes overacting), and the realization that all of the love and care that Dinsey puts into their animated films is pretty much nonexistant in their live action fare.
Is Inspector Gadget suitable for kids? Well, yeah, I guess if you don't mind all the innuendos between Everett, Broderick and Fisher. You may hate the sledgehammer of plot, but the kids might be able to sit through about 15 minutes before they get restless, and then they'll hate the sledgehammer of plot and just want their Happy Meal. I wouldn't let my kid watch it, not because it's stupid, because I'd let them watch stupid if stupid leads to funny. I wouldn't let them watch Gadget because it seems devoid of original ideas. Of the $75 million in the budget, it seems very little was set aside for plot development.There are family films that are scads better, without all the product placement and stupid jokes. Rent The Iron Giant if you don't believe me.
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originally posted: 04/23/00 01:57:24