Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Disney, widescreen 1.85:1, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], French Digital Stereo, subtitles: French, single side-dual layer, 13 chapters, rated PG, 78 min., $29.99, street date 12/7/99.
Directed by David Kellogg. Starring Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Michelle Trachtenberg, Dabney Coleman, Andy Dick, Michael G. Hagerty, Cheri Oteri.
Wowser! Disney's Inspector Gadget turbocharges to life in a wild and quirky adventure comedy with a thousand moving parts!
During a daring rescue attempt, John Brown (Matthew Broderick), a naïve and clueless security guard, experiences the wrath of the evil Dr. Claw ( Rupert Evertt) and is left clinging to life. Jumping at the chance to put her robotics expertise to the test, the briliant Dr. Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher) transforms him into Inspector Gadget - the ultimate crime-fighting tool! And Gadget is going to need every techno-trick up his cyber-sleeve to defeat the ruthless Claw - before Claw reduces our hero to spare parts and wreaks havoc on the world!
Nonstop action, seamless special effects and a gazillion gizmos make Inspector Gadget a hilarious techno-thrill ride the whole family will watch over and over.
It's almost as inevitable as the tides: Disney live action movies featuring big-name stars hit the screens, the critics pan them, but they do some pretty nice business nonetheless. Think 101 Dalmatians with Glenn Close and Flubber with Robin Williams and you'll understand what I mean.
Last summer's Inspector Gadget was a slightly different case. For one, the stars weren't quite as big; Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett and Joely Fisher don't quite measure up to those actors I already mentioned. Its box office about equaled that of Flubber - both were in the mid-$90 million range - but paled compared to the $130 million plus of 101 Dalmatians.
In my ever so humble opinion, the main way in which IG differed from its predecessors, however, stemmed from it being a decently watchable little movie. I'm pretty much alone on this one; critics and the general adult public have savaged this film. In many ways, they're right; it's not a terribly good picture. But it's nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe, and there's enough fun stuff happening hear to make it fairly entertaining for both kids and adults.
Chances are that kids are still going to get the most out of it. IG progresses at a pretty hyperactive pace and splatters enough gratuitous eye candy on the screen to satiate most young 'uns; subtlety is not its strength, and most of the humor tends toward the juvenile.
Still, there's a fair amount of material clearly aimed at adults, and much of the movie is presented in a very campy manner that openly acknowledges it's a film. That latter technique can be quite annoying, but it adds to the fun here. The entire picture is so over the top that I thought it largely worked; it's one movie that really creates the atmosphere of a cartoon come to life.
Most of the acting is glib and broad but winning. Broderick excels at these goody-two-shoes roles, and he makes Gadget appropriately stiff but still awkwardly charming. He also makes the silly Robo-Gadget a lot of fun, though the character was a something of a missed opportunity. Fisher offers an unusual type: she's amazingly sexy, but she doesn't come across as intimidatingly so, and she's able to straddle the different requirements of the role well.
Best of the lot, however, is Everett as the evil Claw. He's easily the campiest of the bunch, but he really provides a lot of nasty fun in the part. Everett's an actor with a tremendously wide range, and his work alone creates much of the appeal of IG.
Michelle Trachtenberg is unexceptional but perfectly acceptable as Gadget's niece. She's there just because I think producers believe kids movies have to have kids in them to make them accessible to their target audience - her character's almost completely superfluous - but she's fine. Cheri Oteri, Dabney Coleman, and Andy Dick all offer some fun bit parts as well.
The only real stinker in the bunch is D.L. Hughley's vocal part as the Gadgetmobile. Since this is Disney, the film required a wisecracking sidekick, but Hughley is nowhere in Genie-league. He's not even in Mushu-league. I won't completely blame Hughley, since he probably didn't write the lines, but the Gadgetmobile is one of the least entertaining and witty sidekicks I've yet witnessed. The filmmakers should have just given Gadget a cool car and left the vocal track at home.
Don't interpret my comments as excessive praise. (Well, based on the negative reaction Inspector Gadget engenders, some would feel that any praise for it is excessive.) It's not a great - or even very good - movie by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I think it's a decent little diversion. The movie barely runs for 70 minutes when you omit its credits, so even if you don't like it, it's over quickly. I think it offers a fun experience for kids and is just witty enough to be acceptable to adults.
Inspector Gadget appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the disc has not been enhanced for 16X9 TVs. Disney seem to make every DVD dual-layered these days, even if the program is as short as IG. I suppose this is a good thing, since when a program is allotted more space, the resulting image should theoretically look better. That's not always the case, though, and I think the extra space would be used more profitably by the inclusion of a fullscreen transfer of a film. I don't like pan and scan, but a lot of people do, and if there's enough room, why not do it?
Anyway, IG offers a reasonably good but not spectacular image. Sharpness seem solid without any obvious edge enhancement, shimmering, or jagged edges. The print used is generally decent, though it presents a surprising number of flaws for such a recent film; speckles and spots appear on occasion, and the picture shows occasional grittiness, though it doesn't seem to be grainy.
Colors look solid and accurate. They can't be described as "eye-popping," and I frankly expected them to be bolder since this such a cartoony movie, but they appear bright and pleasing. Black levels and shadow detail both seem acceptable and natural. Overall, Inspector Gadget looks good but lacks much visual sparkle.
I felt about the same way in regard to the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 mix - it's solid but nothing special. The forward soundstage is pretty good, with some nice imaging, and the rears offer a reasonable amount of information. As with my opinion that the colors seemed subdued for this kind of film, so do I feel that the surrounds should have been more active. They aren't quiet, but IG is a wacky, over the top movie that deserves equivalent sound and visual design, and it's just not there. Still, the rears filled in the audio enough to be satisfactory.
The quality of the sound is very good. Dialogue always appears clear and intelligible, and the score seems very smooth and musical. Effects are bright and bold and lack any obvious distortion. It's a good-sounding soundtrack, but it doesn't offer a dazzling experience.
Looking at the supplemental content of Inspector Gadget won't make you think it's a special edition, and by most standards, it's not. However, this is Disney we're discussing; that's the studio that calls "full-color character artwork on disc" a special feature.
As such, I'm surprised that they haven't granted IG that title, since it offers as many extras as their "collector's editions" of Halloween H20 and Life Is Beautiful but lists for $10 less. Maybe that's the difference: for the $40, you get to tell people you have a "collector's edition," but for $30 you just own a plain old stinkin' DVD.
Whatever the case, let's offer Disney a minor round of applause for including some supplements on a DVD and not charging a ridiculous sum for it. IG ain't exactly jam-packed with supplements, but for Disney, it's a good start down what one hopes will be a more productive road.
The most prominent extra on IG is a 22 minute program about the film called "Go Inside Inspector Gadget". (Sounds like a porno title to me!) This show was part of Disney's "Movie Surfers" series that resembles every other kid-hosted TV program you've ever seen; a crew of diverse - but exceptionally clean-cut - youngsters (all between 12 and 16, I'd guess) offer silly intros to a variety of brief segments about various topics. As such, we see very short bits about each of the main actors and the special effects.
The program is definitely aimed at the 8 to 12 year old market, and it shows through the attitudes and chipper demeanors of the hosts, and the cotton candy tone of the pieces. Not that I think this is a terrible thing; it's just different, that's all. I'm used to "adult" programs, even though these featurettes are usually just puff pieces. "GI IG" is awfully puffy, all right, but it's fairly watchable, and we learn a little bit of useful information about the making of the film in between the inanity. As with the movies, it'll probably go over best with the kids.
IG includes two other minor extras. There's the film's pretty good trailer - which creates a sense of fun about the movie without ruining too many surprises - and a music video from yet another annoying "boy band," Youngstown. The clip shows their song "I'll Be Your Everything," a tune that's a blatant rip-off of Backstreet's "Everybody". Youngstown differ from other boy bands in that there are three of them, whereas most of these groups pack in five dudes. Other than that, it's déjà vu.
The video itself is an incredibly standard piece. It intercuts shots of the boys dancing and lip-synching with scenes from the film itself. Yawn. Much more compelling would have been the inclusion of Doug E. Fresh and his 1985 rap smash "The Show". You remember that one? "Six minutes - six minutes - six minutes, Doug E. Fresh, you're on!" Well, that song sampled the Inspector Gadget theme and was so terribly catchy that I simply cannot hear the IG song and not mentally segue into "The Show". That's my burden to bear, I guess; I had that tune running through my head for about a week after I saw "IG" last summer.
Ultimately, Inspector Gadget makes for a pretty decent little DVD and is a surprisingly strong effort for the money considering that it comes from Disney. The movie itself is silly and fairly inane but still reasonably entertaining. While they have some faults, both the picture and the sound appear pretty good, and the small assortment of extras aren't bad either. IG isn't a classic, but it offers a fairly fun experience and will probably be enjoyed by most kids (and some adults, too).
Current as of 12/25/99
Official Site--As with most of Disney's family films, the site is very well designed to include information on the film, game, electronic cards, and more.
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