Reviews by Alan Jones

selected from Starburst #254
Alan Jones's Movie Reviews is just one part of Starburst's monthly Reviews section. In every issue: a TV View, from the US or UK: our popular Bookshelf section on the latest Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels, plus Soundtracks, games and websites in Cybertech, take-home releases in Videofile and DVD File, plus John Brosnan's It's Only A Movie Inspector Gadget: "Incessant special effects plaster the wounded wretchedness together"
Inspector Gadget

First there was Flubber, then My Favourite Martian, and now Disney hit rock bottom with their dismal live-action version of the 1983-85 cult cartoon series Inspector Gadget. With gags that never work, characters that never matter and a story that could be had up under the Trades Descriptions Act, director David Kellogg’s painfully soulless disaster parades an ever-increasing amount of joyless computer graphics on screen in a frantic effort to cover up its overwhelming deficiencies. Showing clear signs of ruthless editing and damage control, even the mercifully short running time of 77 minutes still proves interminable even as the horrible thought crosses the mind that the projectionist must have left out a reel.

What is it about their back catalogue hits (including The Parent Trapand That Darn Cat), old TV shows and cartoon revamps that suddenly exhausts the Disney studio of any imagination, charm or care? Is it that they feel each has a strong enough concept to get it by no matter what crass choices they make? Or is it purely cynical commercialism on ill-informed overdrive? In the case of this dreadfully unfunny exercise in juvenile excess, incessant special effects are the plasters holding the whole wounded wretchedness together.

Matthew Broderick deserved better as John Brown, an idealistic security guard transformed into a gizmo-laden bionic crime-fighter after nearly dying while trying to apprehend the suspects responsible for killing scientist Artemus Bradford (Rene Auberjonois in a ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ role). With all manner of hydraulic attachments (extending arms, legs, neck), in-built tools (chopper blades in his head, Rollerblades on his feet) and sundry jokey contraptions (detachable ears as surveillance devices) surgically implanted by Bradford’s daughter Brenda (Joely Fisher), the customized Brown begins the quest to bring the corrupt billionaire Sanford Scolex (Rupert Everett) responsible for the heinous murder to justice.

Not easy when Scolex, calling himself Claw (“One word like Madonna”) after losing a hand in an early face-off, builds an evil cyborg Gadget clone to defame the original and employs the ingenuous (make that stupid!) Brenda in his own sinister corporation.

With little made of Brown’s hopeless initial efforts to control his bodily mechanisms with the order “Go Go Gadget”, and even littler made of his unrequited love for Brenda, Inspector Gadget offers the queasy spectacle of half-way decent actors drowning in a sea of desperate mugging knowing full well that’s what they are doing. The lame script doesn’t help either packed as it is with pathetic in-jokes (cyborg Gadget pretending to be Godzilla to frighten law-abiding Riverton City citizens) and brain-freezing asides to the camera (“Buckle up that seat-belt – this is a Disney movie!”)

When Disney feel like they’re on to a good thing, they tend to over use the formula. Here, cut from the same cloth as Weebo in Flubber and Zoot in My Favourite Martian, that ingredient takes the form of the shape-shifting, prison-on-wheels, jive-talking Gadgetmobile voiced by D L Hughley. Come back Jar Jar Binks, all is forgiven! If this mind-numbing feature isn’t enough to have you running screaming towards the exit doors then you’ve already had all your energy and will to live drained by this witless and unexciting extravaganza.

Disney and David Kellogg, you are hereby sentenced to watch your own bum-shifting folly every day for the rest of your natural born lives, and even that’s letting you off lightly. Go, go, Gadget indeed!

America • July
Britain • December
77 mins • Cert PG/U

Matthew Broderick
Rupert Everett
Joely Fisher
Michelle Trachtenberg
Andy Dick
Chero Oteri
Michael G Hagerty
Rene Auberjonois

Production Producers •
Jordan Kerner, Roger Birnbaum, Andy Heyward
Executive producers • Jon Avnet, Harry Bernardi, Aaron Meyerson, Jonathan Glickman, Ralph Winter
Co-Producers •
Lou Arkoff, Jean Chalopin
Director •
David Kellogg
Screenplay •
Kerry Ehrin, Zak Penn from a story by Ehrin & Dana Olsen, based on characters created by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin & Bruno Bianchi
Story • Jim Thomas Music • John Debney
Visual effects • Dream Quest Images
Visual effects supervisor • Richard Hoover
Special animatronic effects • Stan Winston

Starburst rating:
out of 10

Inspector Gadget picture copyright Buena Vista
Feature © Visual Imagination 1999. Not for reproduction
‘Incessant special effects are the plasters holding the whole wounded wretchedness together’
Read Alan Jones' reviews of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Tarzan in Starburst #254
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