Inspector Gadget

Theatrical Release: July 23, 1999 / Running Time: 78 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: David Kellogg

Cast: Matthew Broderick (Inspector Gadget/Robo Gadget), Rupert Everett (Claw), Joely Fisher (Brenda/Robo Brenda), Michelle Trachtenberg (Penny), Andy Dick (Kramer), Cheri Oteri (Mayor Wilson), Michael G. Hagerty (Sikes), Dabney Coleman (Chief Quimby), Rene Aubernojois (Professor Bradford), D.L. Hughley (voice of Gadgetmobile)


Movie: Disney's decision to transform a popular cartoon of the '80s into a live-action feature may not have seem like a logical marriage, but the final result - 1999's Inspector Gadget - is more than satisfying. Films adapted from TV - no matter what form - have had a spotty record, but two years earlier, Disney's live-action George of the Jungle film took the box office by surprise and wound up being one of the year's top-grossing films. Certainly, the success of George impacted the Gadget, down its next-to-last July weekend opening. Even if many critics trashed it, and the film slightly fell short of the $105 million domestic gross George made, Inspector Gadget is a spirited comic adventure that winds up relying a lot less on the characteristics of its cartoon, and a lot more on the self-knowing tongue-in-cheek tone that George of the Jungle utilized so well.


Matthew Broderick, who has been a part of a number of excellent films from his mid-'80s teenager roles to successful adult turns in both comedic and dramatic fare, takes on the role of Gadget. Actually, at first, he is John Brown, a shy, but friendly security guard. Following a disastrous criminal chase, a severely injured Brown is rendered into a high-tech crime fighter with a gizmo for every calling. Inspector Gadget isn't much different at heart from the pre-accident Brown, but if the evil Claw (Rupert Everett) has his way, Gadget won't be at all.


While the film goes heavy on sight gags, and not all of the comedy works, Inspector Gadget has enough comic energy to boisterously amuse for its short running time. This isn't Broderick's best work by any stretch - but he has enough charisma to successfully pull off a double turn as the appealing hero and the raving lunatic Robo Gadget that Claw creates. Joely Fisher is suitable as the intelligent and well-meaning scientist who oversees the procedure that creates Gadget. The supporting performers all do nice work - particularly memorable are an aloof Cheri Oteri as the town's mayor, Dabney Coleman as the police chief, Michael G. Hagerty (of TV's "Friends") as a henchman, and Andy Dick as Claw's loony sidekick.

D.L. Hughley is the voice of Gadget's high-tech car, and has a few good lines ("Buckle up - this is a Disney movie!") that prevent the character from being merely annoying. Frances Bay (best known as "Grandma Gilmore") has a small, but charming turn as a fellow security guard. Be sure to stick around for the end credits - very amusing cameos and more entertaining sequences.


DVD Details

1.85:1 Non-anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Surround (French)
Subtitles: English, French
Release Date: December 7, 1999
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (reduced from $29.99)
White keepcase, chapter listing insert



Fortunately, this film was released to DVD within five months of theatrical release, in time for Christmas of '99. At the time, Disney was doing everything in widescreen (a year earlier or a few later, and it would likely suffer the Pan & Scan fate that George of the Jungle and Air Bud did). Of course, it is non-anamorphic widescreen, but as such, it looks great. An extremely clean print (of course) and no troubles at all; while the added resolution would have been nice, the film looks terrific for an unenhanced widescreen transfer.


I'm as enthusiastic about the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track, which makes terrific use of the surrounds and allows for a wide and active soundfield. The remixes of the familiar cartoon theme song are upbeat and even the use of Smash Mouth's overplayed "All Star" can be excused due to the fact that the song was new and kind of catchy back in the summer of '99. Overall, excellent marks for video and audio presentation.



Surprisingly for the time, there are a fair number of extras included. First up is Go Inside Inspector Gadget, which is a 22-minute Disney Channel "Movie Surfers" featurette on the film. The "Movie Surfers" segments and specials on Disney Channel are usually interesting to watch as they provide sneak previews of the film and some behind-the-scenes information. In general, they're thinly-veiled promotional tools that Disney feeds in between commercials of all its programs today, and they're geared towards a youthful audience - but nonetheless, some of it's interesting and one would hope they'd turn up on more DVDs. Inspector Gadget is the only Disney DVD I've come across that carries over this featurette - and one would hope the segment on hidden things in Finding Nemo will appear on its DVD in some form.

The featurette includes brief clips of interviews of stars Broderick, Fisher and Everett, the boy band Youngstown who provides a song for the film, and a more substantial interview with a post-"Pete & Pete", pre-"Buffy" Michelle Trachtenberg. We also get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the designs of the film's trade tricks, which makes it easier to overlook the mostly annoying young hosts. We're also on the set for one gooey day of outside filming on a cloudy afternoon. There's an even a in-home do-it-yourself activity for the fam.


The full music video for "I'll Be Your Everything" performed by the aforementioned boy band Youngstown is included and runs 3 and a half minutes.

Something that you'd never find on a release of one of today's live-action films is present: the film's theatrical trailer! Actually, it's the teaser, and runs just over a minute, but it's a nice inclusion. I wish Disney would start including these on the DVD again!

Finally, there are Film Recommendations, which is simply a gallery of 6 video covers of other Disney movies on DVD at the time, but with no trailers or previews of them.


Closing Thoughts: Inspector Gadget gets my film recommendation - it's a lot of good-natured fun and I can't understand what the film's naysayers were expecting. The DVD is entirely satisfying - with a fair amount of special features and top-notch audio and (in spite of no 16x9 enhancement) video. The DVD was hard to find for a while, but it should be back in stores now, as a far better and more reasonably priced alternative to the French Stewart direct-to-video sequel.


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