Inspector Gadget (Matthew Broderick) is hysterical, not to say hysterically funny. The hero of Disney’s live-action version of the ’80s cartoon series literally can’t contain himself. Ostensibly designed as a gentle Robocop, he is made of gadgets that are mostly frivolous accessories, many of which produce some sort of liquid or goo and threaten to erupt without warning. And if this weren’t embarrassing enough, he wears his heart on his hat.
In an intriguing reversal, the brains of this outfit are the women. Until they revert to their more traditional female roles, scientist Brenda (Joely Fisher) and precocious niece Penny (Michelle Trachtenberg) help focus and control the emasculated hero’s wayward appendages. Meanwhile,
Gadget’s rival, Claw (Rupert Everett), a smarmy diva who
also has a predilection for wacky machinery, is too silly
to be more than a phantom menace. The values of the
old-fashioned everyman are
affirmed as John Brown a/k/a Gadget, self-proclaimed “nice guy,” learns to come to terms with his diminished stature in
a technology-driven world. Aiding him in these efforts is the Gadgetmobile, with a voice that might as well have been supplied by Jar Jar Binks, but more jive-talking hep cat than Steppin Fetchit.
Known primarily for television commercials, director David Kellogg hasn’t charted any new territory here. Shot mostly in close-up, with nearly every action accompanied by
a sound effect, the film itself is slightly hysterical. It ignores narrative— or any other sort of— logic; much of its humor is derived from references to pop culture and numerous brand names. Kids today appreciate a good joke about merchandising tie-ins as much as they do scatological humor. Inspector Gadget suggests that the two might be closer than we’d thought.