[Screen It]


(1999) (Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor Heavy *Moderate Heavy
Minor None Mild None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Mild Minor Heavy

Comedy: A gadget-laden, bionic police officer tries to capture a villain who's determined to conquer the world.
John Brown (MATTHEW BRODERICK) is a friendly, but relatively naive security guard who dreams of becoming the world's greatest police officer. Having failed to gain admittance to the police academy, however, he spends his time raising his niece, Penny (MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG), when not patrolling the Bradford Robotics Laboratory where scientists, including Artemus Bradford (RENÉ AUBERJONOIS), are researching mind-controlled robots.

While the job is rather boring, that changes when evil billionaire Sanford Scolex (RUPERT EVERETT) sends his programmed robots to steal the lab's work. A murder and wild chase follow, but just as Brown is ready to nab Scolex, the villain blows up his car, leaving Brown for dead.

He ends up in the hospital, however, where his only chance for survival is if he's surgically converted into a prototype bionic police officer. Thus, Bradford's scientist daughter, Brenda (JOELY FISHER) whom Brown had previously fallen fall, rebuilds him with an assortment of gizmos and devices implanted throughout his body. When he awakens, Brown finds that he's now become "Inspector Gadget."

While the Mayor of Riverton City (CHERI OTERI) is ecstatic over her new employee, police chief Quimby (DABNEY COLEMAN) isn't and assigns Gadget to a series of mundane tasks. Yet, the new cop -- who's still trying to get accustomed to his various devices -- wants to solve the Bradford murder.

Unbeknownst to him, Scolex, who now goes by the name of Claw due to the prosthetic claw that's replaced his hand, has stolen Brenda's plans. With the help of his minions, Sikes (MICHAEL G. HAGERTY) and Kramer (ANDY DICK), he's set out to create an army of advanced robots to conquer the world. With his first being an evil replica of Gadget, Scolex plans to ruin Gadget's good name and reputation by having the "twin" wreak havoc on the city.

With the help of Brenda, Penny & her dog Brain, and his supped up, jive-talking car, the Gadgetmobile (voice of D.L. HUGHLEY), Inspector Gadget sets out to stop Claw and his robots while clearing his own name of any and all wrongdoing.

If they've seen the lively commercials for it, they might, but few are probably aware of the original cartoon that aired during the early 1980s (although some may be familiar with it from cable TV's Nickelodeon channel where it airs in reruns).
For whacky [sic] violence/action, language and innuendo.
  • MATTHEW BRODERICK plays a friendly but naive cop wannabe who gets converted into a gadget-laden, bionic crime fighter. As such, he fights the villains while falling for Brenda. Broderick also plays the evil twin version of Gadget who sets out to wreak havoc on their city.
  • RUPERT EVERETT plays the evil Claw, a.k.a. Scolex, a billionaire who's determined to conquer the world with his own robots.
  • JOELY FISHER plays a scientist who not only rebuilds Brown into Gadget, but also helps him stop Claw.
  • MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG plays Gadget's niece who helps him stop Claw.
  • DABNEY COLEMAN plays the police chief who doesn't like Gadget and thus assigns him mundane police work.
  • MICHAEL G. HAGERTY and ANDY DICK play Claw's minions who assist him with his evil plans.


    OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
    In today's world of varied philanthropic and environmental concerns, activists often take up various causes in attempts to remedy whatever particular malady or problem that's struck a nerve in them. Some are involved in funding charities, while others try to stop deforestation or make commercial fishing safer for non-targeted aquatic critters.

    Movie critics, on the other hand, are concerned with the ruthless mining occurring in southern California, but not the kind that produces coal or diamonds. Instead, we're referring to the continual mining of old TV shows and movies and the attempts to extract commercial gain from them. While our cause doesn't exactly rank up there with other worldly efforts, such mining is usually detrimental to the movie-going experience and is the result and/or cause of the creative vacuum currently operating in much of today's filmmaking.

    All of which leads to "Inspector Gadget," the third film in just two months to be adapted from a former program or film. Based on the TV cartoon of the same name that aired during the 1980s (and can currently be seen in syndication on cable TV's Nickelodeon channel), the question that naturally follows is whether this live action, big screen remake would be as vastly enjoyable as "Tarzan," or a vapid, special effects-laden dud like "Wild Wild West."

    Unfortunately, we're sad to report that it's far more like the latter. Relying on special effects to carry it through a thankfully short eighty minute runtime, this painfully unfunny film might fleetingly entertain the youngest of kids, but older ones and adults will probably find the proceedings intolerable at best.

    I must admit that I only have fleeting recollections of the original TV cartoon -- most notably the catchy tune and that Gadget was voiced by Don Adams of "Get Smart" fame (appropriate since that was also a gadget show) -- and as such can't state whether this film is true to the spirit of the show.

    With its reliance on wild and outrageous gizmos and devices, however, one could easily conclude that this adaption would certainly seem to benefit from the capability of today's big screen special effects. Yet, despite a few decent ones and the work of Oscar winning wizard Stan Winston ("Jurassic Park," "Terminator 2: Judgement Day"), the film's overall visuals aren't anything special, and a few of them actually look quite fake.

    The film's biggest problem, however, is in director David Kellogg's goofy, over-the-top approach in telling the story where everything, including the score and sound effects are intentionally over- the-top zany. Working from a script by screenwriters Kerry Ehrin ("Mr. Wrong") and Zak Penn ("Last Action Hero"), Kellogg delivers a picture void of any worthy humor, characterizations, or even an interesting story.

    Of course, if one considers the screenwriters' previous work or the fact that Kellogg's only other picture was 1991's "Cool As Ice" (yes, with white bread rapper, Vanilla Ice -- a credit the press kit conveniently omitted), none of this should come as any surprise.

    After the initial setup, the film darts and zips from one moment to the next with very little explanation of what's occurring and without any real dramatic or comedic buildup. As such, and acknowledging that it's anything but complicated, the story is neither interesting nor involving to any measurable degree.

    To make matters worse, the characters are nothing more than cartoon caricatures -- a tactic that rarely, if ever, works in a live action film. Thus we don't care about them and their capacity to entertain is severely limited if even present at all. While it's possible for a purposefully zany approach to work -- but only if great care is taken to insure that the proceedings don't become so stupid as to be unbearable -- that doesn't happen here.

    As such, the performers can't do much of anything with their characters to make them interesting or entertaining. While I've liked most everything Matthew Broderick ("Election," "Glory") has done during his career -- although he was horribly miscast in "Godzilla," a point he briefly spoofs here -- this role just doesn't work for him. It's not that he doesn't give it the old college try, it's just that the material is so weak that no one could have extracted anything worthwhile from it.

    The biggest surprise is in seeing up and coming star Rupert Everett ("An Ideal Husband," "My Best Friend's Wedding") as the nefarious villain. Why he chose to appear in this film is a complete mystery (just as was the case with Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh showing up in "Wild Wild West"), although I'm sure some financial incentive was probably involved.

    Other performances, from the likes of Joely Fisher (TV's "Ellen"), Michelle Trachtenberg ("Harriet the Spy"), Dabney Coleman ("You've Got Mail") and Michael G. Hagerty ("Overboard") and Andy Dick (TV's "NewsRadio") as the two minions, are either underwritten or overacted so far into caricature status that they're instantly forgettable. Either that or they're simply annoying as is the case with the jive-talking gadgetmobile.

    In essence, that similarly holds true for the film as a whole. Of course, if you favor stupid scenes featuring characters wallowing in copious amounts of toothpaste blasted like a fire hose from Gadget's arm then perhaps you might find something redeemable here.

    Yet the only time the kids at our screening really laughed was for a dog bobbing his head to a song's beat. Similarly, the best offered for adults is a brief end credits scene featuring a "minion" support group (with Sikes and various assistant villains from the James Bond films such as Richard "Jaws" Kiel).

    When that's the best the film has to offer, it's a clear sign of how bad things were before it. To conclude with our mining analogy, some types of that activity can produce diamonds, but all this one digs up is a load of crud. We give "Inspector Gadget" a 1 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this PG-rated comedy that's aimed at kids. A great deal of non-lethal, zany-type violence occurs throughout the film (often in a slapstick fashion), although a non-graphic murder (via a robot-fired beam) occurs off camera.

    Directly related, standard issue buffoon villains are present and a few scenes involving them may be unsettling or suspenseful to some kids, as might the sight of some severed/detached robotic body parts (that look human, but aren't bloody).

    Some brief language and minor profanity is also present, while a few instances of smoking and drinking occur, as does some brief innuendo (and a few moments of suggestive clothing). Since young kids may be interested in seeing the film, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content if you're still concerned about its appropriateness.

  • We see some champagne at a formal dance, and Gadget brings two glasses over for Brenda and himself. Claw takes one of them, however, and quickly downs it.
  • A severed robotic foot, head and a briefly detached ear are occasionally seen, but aren't gory or bloody (the same holds true for Gadget's seemingly cutoff fingers, but they're played for laughs as flames, scissors or the likes come out of the temporary "holes").
  • A meditative guru tries to get Gadget to focus on two balls sitting on the floor. As Gadget does so, his arm extends across the room and grabs the guru's crotch, causing him to talk in a high- pitched voice and later be seen with a huge bag of ice on his crotch.
  • All of the following is meant to be zany and anything but serious.
  • Obviously Scolex/Claw has both for murdering a man (not seen), stealing a company's product and secrets and wishing to conquer the world. His minions and the evil Gadget have similar bad attitudes/behavior.
  • Quimby has both for not liking Gadget and purposefully never allowing him to work on a real police case.
  • We briefly see some guys trying to break into a car.
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense or unsettling to some kids, all dependent, of course, on their age, maturity level and tolerance for such material.
  • A dream/nightmare that Brown has regarding an out of control school bus (with some screaming kids on it) that's approaching a crosswalk and oncoming children may be somewhat suspenseful to very young kids (the scene is played more for adventure than suspense, however).
  • Although he's supposed to be more comically villainous than menacing, Claw may be scary to some very young kids.
  • A scene where people run in comic terror down a street/alley from the sounds of a monster might be scary to kids, but we then see that it's really the evil Gadget just making the sounds/shadows of such a monster.
  • The sight of Gadget lying in a trash/junk heap and appearing to be dead may be unsettling to some kids (but he turns out to be alive).
  • A scene where Gadget hangs onto and is dragged behind a car may be comically suspenseful to some kids.
  • A tarantula crawls out of the evil Gadget's mouth and up the good Gadget's arm.
  • Gadget and Brenda fall from the top of a high rise toward the street below as he tries to get a gadget to appear that will save them before they hit the street.
  • Exploding Cigar: Used by Scolex to blow up Brown's car.
  • Missiles: Fired from various parts of Gadget's body or from Claw's helicopter at Gadget.
  • Flamethrower: Used by the evil Gadget to burn/catch things on fire.
  • Handguns: Carried and/or drawn by cops, and briefly held by Sikes on Penny.
  • Machine guns/Swords/Mallets: Used by the evil Gadget (from his arms) while trying to attack the good Gadget.
  • Phrases: "Wowser," "Geek," "Freaks," "Cyber freak," "Idiot," "Shut up," "Kick some butt" and "I got the skittles knocked out of me."
  • None.
  • A mild amount of dramatic and/or suspenseful music occurs at several times during the movie.
  • None.
  • At least one possible damn and 1 "God" used as exclamations.
  • When Brenda bends over, Gadget stares at her clothed butt (as does the camera) and we hear him make spontaneous and excited chimpanzee-like noises (due to what he sees).
  • Some women, including Brenda, show some cleavage at a formal dance, as does the Mayor in a later scene.
  • The robotic replica of Brenda shows some cleavage in her skintight body suit and somewhat suggestively calls out for Scolex (who's not there).
  • A rocket shoots from Gadget's foot as he kisses Brenda.
  • Claw smokes cigars a few times and lights another one that turns out to a bomb.
  • Brenda briefly -- and we mean briefly -- grieves over her dead father.
  • The zany and obviously non-realistic way in which the characters act and react (such as Brenda's quick nonchalant reaction to her father's murder).
  • All of the following is meant to be zany and anything but serious.
  • An armored van drives through a wall and a robot from inside it shoots some sort of beam that strikes Brenda's father and kills him (but we only see the beam and not the impact or actual death).
  • Brown's car crashes and flips over, sliding on its roof until it crashes into a pole. That then sends a billboard down onto Scolex's limo. Scolex then lights an explosive cigar and tosses it at Brown's car that then explodes, sending a bowling ball into the air and eventually down onto Scolex's hand (bad enough that we later see him with a resultant prosthetic claw).
  • A rocket suddenly fires from Gadget's foot and causes some minor damage in a hospital.
  • Gadget's neck suddenly extends and his head smashes through a ceiling.
  • We see Sikes getting an electric shock from a contraption on his head (in slapstick style and with smoke coming from the headgear) as Claw and Kramer test his mind-to-computer connection.
  • A meditative guru tries to get Gadget to focus on two balls sitting on the floor. As Gadget does so, his arm extends across the room and grabs the guru's crotch, causing him to talk in a high- pitched voice and later be seen with a huge bag of ice on his crotch.
  • As the gadgetmobile takes off, Gadget hits his head on a low overpass.
  • Gadget punches his car's dashboard causing it to send a spring-loaded boxing glove at him.
  • A thief gets "clotheslined" by a rope sent out from Gadget.
  • As Gadget's ear (still attached to his body via a small string/cable) flies back to his head from across the room, it knocks him to the floor.
  • Claw briefly grabs Kramer by the nose with his pinching claw.
  • The evil Gadget whacks Sikes in the face.
  • The evil Gadget shoots flames onto a Riverton sign, catching it on fire. Later, we see a burning, stacked pile of cars that the evil Gadget reportedly arranged.
  • Gadget crashes through a glass door.
  • The evil Gadget spins a person around on a street by his feet and then lets go, sending the man flying out of the camera shot.
  • Claw breaks a computer chip that made Gadget function.
  • The evil Gadget takes a police officer and throws him across the floor where he knocks down other officers like a bowling ball.
  • The evil Gadget breaks glass in a door to get into Quimby's office. He then uses his built-in flamethrower to burn papers on the desk and then fire a blast at cops who've arrived with their guns drawn. He then jumps through the window, breaking it, and falls several stories where he safely lands on the street. There, he purposefully breaks a car window with his elbow.
  • We then see a long shot of the city showing part of it on fire and an explosion or two occurring -- all presumably the result of the evil Gadget's actions.
  • The evil Gadget shoots flames at people who run from him.
  • Gadget breaks through the back glass of a limo, where the evil Gadget then punches him, sending him back out the window.
  • Claw's limo and the gadgetmobile crash into each other.
  • The evil Gadget punches the good Gadget but then strikes his head on a part of a bridge.
  • More cars crash into each other.
  • The evil Gadget fires machine guns (from his arms) at the good Gadget.
  • Brenda punches Claw but he then grabs her around the wrist with his claw.
  • The two Gadgets fight high atop a bridge, with the evil Gadget trying to strike the good one with two large sword-like appendages. He then repeatedly hits the good Gadget with several mallets.
  • Sikes briefly holds a gun on Penny.
  • Claw fires a missile at Gadget that knocks him from the sky (as he was flying along with his hat- mounted helicopter blades). He then tries to strike Gadget with the lowered blades from his standard helicopter. Brenda then punches Claw several times.
  • A large statue is knocked from its base and is "beheaded."
  • A spring-loaded boxing glove punches Claw.

  • Reviewed July 20, 1999 / Posted July 23, 1999

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood] [Frozen 2] [Knives Out] [Queen & Slim] [21 Bridges]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2019 Screen It, Inc.