PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
John Brown (Matthew Broderick) is a security guard for a science lab operated by robotics expert Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher) in Riverton, Ohio. He lives with his 10-year-old niece, Penny (Michelle Trachtenberg), and their dog, Brain. He hopes to be a police officer, but is denied from the force by Chief Quimby (Dabney Coleman). The multi-millionaire tycoon Sanford Scolex (Rupert Everett) attacks the lab, stealing valuable equipment for the “Gadget Program” and killing Brenda’s father (Rene Auberjonois) in the process. John, who is smitten with her, gives chase despite his co-worker Thelma (Frances Bay) warning him that the chase wouldn’t end well and trying to convince him to lay off by telling him he’s off duty at the moment (he lets her know he’s always on duty). The ensuing car crash brings a confrontation with Scolex, who uses a victory cigar explosive to blow up John and his beloved Chevette, leaving him for dead. But in the fiery blast, a bowling ball in the back seat of his car flies into the air and through the sunroof of Scolex’s limo, landing directly on and rapidly smashing his left hand. John is rushed to intensive care by Brenda.
John is rebuilt using electronic parts and is dubbed “Inspector Gadget”. He is given lessons by a meditating guru at the lab in relaxing his body and getting a firm grip on the workings of his gadgets, which ends in failure when he accidentally grasps the guru’s testicles with a little too much force. Despite some previous success in capturing two criminals, he is assigned with many community service jobs, such as crossing guard, litter patrol, and rescuing kittens. Meanwhile, Scolex’s assistant Kramer (Andy Dick) builds a new, mechanical claw to replace his hand, and Scolex renames himself “Dr. Claw”. Unlike the original cartoon series, his face is visible. He then tries using the stolen equipment to move a robot, but fails. When Sykes (Michael G. Hagerty) calls it a lemon, he has him put it on (at maximum voltage). But this fails too and he concludes that he needs Brenda’s help. He hires her as his robotics specialist (expressing lust for her in the process), and is amused to discover that John is the “lucky duck they plucked for the Gadget Program.” Later, he gets a copy of Gadget’s chip and inserts it into the earlier robot, which he names RoboGadget.
John investigates Scolex, but while Gadget sees a moisture alarm, he overlooks an audio one and is captured in the process. After informing him about his plans, Dr. Claw takes his control chip and destroys it, leaving him “dead”. He then sends RoboGadget to destroy the city. While Sykes dumps Gadget’s body in the junkyard, Brenda discovers through information given to her by RoboBrenda (a robot clone of herself, also sent to replace her) that Dr. Claw murdered her father. She and Penny race to save John. They discover them in the junkyard, and after Brenda kisses his cheek, he miraculously returns to life; showing that even though he is part machine, he still has a human heart.
After a chase through the city between the Gadgetmobile (voiced by D.L. Hughley) and Dr. Claw’s car, John battles RoboGadget on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. RoboGadget, despite his gadgets being more war machine rather than detective work, quite literally loses his head (it falls off after John pulls a pin out of the back of RoboGadget’s neck), and he tosses it in the river. Activating the “Go Go Gadget Chopper”, he flies to the roof of Scolex Industries, where Dr. Claw prepares to make his escape with Brenda when Gadget comes around. While the helicopter hat is disabled and Gadget is lifted over a high drop, he launches the inside of a pen into the helicopter’s cockpit, hitting the shutdown button on Dr. Claw’s claw and crushing the controls. Brenda and Gadget crash to the plaza below, where police await to arrest him for all of RoboGadget’s crimes. Dr. Claw tries to escape, but is caged in by the GadgetMobile. Sykes, a confused minion brought to the light by Penny, confesses alongside her that RoboGadget was impersonating the real Gadget. John is made a hero in Riverton and earns Chief Quimby’s respect. As Brenda and Gadget walk away, Dr. Claw yells out, “Arrivederci, Gadget! This is not good-bye. I’ll get you next time, Gadget! I’ll get you!” The film closes with Brenda kissing Gadget, with fireworks coming from his right foot as a sign of arousal, and with the Gadgetmobile chasing a red Volkswagen.
The credits show RoboBrenda doing a crazed aerobics class, the headless RoboGadget running around town, Sykes being congratulated at a minion recovery group, Penny speaking to Brain (when he responds, he uses Don Adams’ voice), and the Gadgetmobile’s computer screen thanking the audience for watching his movie, even though they called it Inspector Gadget. He says things are working out with the red VW, whom he married at a drive-thru chapel. He’s also expecting a sub-compact he’s thinking of calling, “The Love Bug”, which is in no way a plug for the Walt Disney Company, although he’s sure the little one will say, “I’m going to Disneyland!”, when he’s old enough. Lastly, he asks everyone not to leave the theme parks just yet, as all the people in the credits make him look good.
In the 80s, Inspector Gadget was a staple on Nickelodeon. Since I didn’t have cable, I would rush home from school every day and go down the street to my friend’s house and watch it.
Years passed and Gadget was removed from the airwaves, much like many of the great cartoons, and replaces with some tween comedy. However, in 1999, audiences were reintroduced to the bumbling inspector in this feature film.
I always wondered how it Gadget got all of his gadgets, and that is exactly what this film sets out to tell us. Sadly, though, they twisted and mutated the story so much, that you can barely tell this is Inspector Gadget.
Unlike previous cartoons brought to life on the big screen, Dudley Do-Right, George of the Jungle, Mr. Magoo, etc., they decided to not make this feel like an episode of the show. Something that very well may have been the film’s downfall.
Gadget is every bit as bumbling as he should be, but for some strange reason, they chose to reduce Penny and especially Brain to nothing more than cameos. For those of you not familiar with how the show went, Penny and Brain are really the ones responsible for Gadget being a success, despite his bumbling. So, for them to not really be a part of this film is really an insult.
Also, Dr. Claw as always nothing more than this mysterious voice. We never saw anything more of him than his arm which was always stroking Mad Cat or showing emotion, such as pounding his chair in disgust. Oh, and just because he’s named Dr. Claw doesn’t mean he has to have a claw!
Speaking of Mad, there was not even a nod to that organization here, either. WTF?!?
Finally, they did the Gadgetmobile right, except for the talking part. I actually don’t have a problem with it talking. For some reason, I always thought it should have been something more like KITT from Knight Rider, instead of just some random car with a bunch of toys and whatnot.
Now, who in the world decided that the Gadgetmobile needed to sound like D.L. Hughley? They need to be drug out into the street and hot! Nothing against Hughley, but his voice and mannerisms made the Gadgetmobile, which by all means should have been a totally awesome vehicle, annoying!
The story isn’t too bad, once you get past all that, though. I wonder if this is the actual origin of Gadget, of there even was one, or if some screenwriter just made up some stuff.
Of course, what kind of film would we have without the love story, right? I honestly think, it would have been better. This so-called “romance” did nothing more than feel shoehorned and forced on the viewer and totally out-of-place, but heaven forbid they not have a romance in here. That would have been the end of the world as we know it!
Casting wasn’t too bad. Even the original Inspector Gadget, Don Adams, voices a cameo at the very end. Keep an ear out for him.
Please don’t get the idea that I hated this flick, because that isn’t the case. I just wished they would have stuck much closer to the source material, rather than go this direction is all. That being said, this is a fairly decent family flick that everyone can watch. Sure, it has its faults, but it isn’t unbearably bad. Check it out if you get the chance.
3 out of 5 stars