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Grinding Gears

[whitespace] Inspector Gadget

The completely charmless 'Inspector Gadget' is a waste of good effects

By Richard von Busack

THE COMPLETELY CHARMLESS Inspector Gadget is a kid parody version of RoboCop. John Brown (Matthew Broderick), a security guard, is blown to pieces in an explosion; he's reassembled with joke-shop machinery into a half-mechanical crime fighter. The man who exploded him is a Bondian villain named Dr. Claw (Rupert Everett, with an amusing Harvard lockjaw accent). Claw is planning to use cybernetic technology to build fighting machines. Brown's savior is Brenda, the daughter of a scientist killed by the Claw.

Joely Fisher, looking like a sleepless version of Sarah Jessica Parker, plays Brenda, a maternal and disinterested love interest. (You can't hose down a woman with blue slime in one scene and expect her to look starry-eyed later.) It could be hoped that Broderick's mild-manneredness would provide a nice contrast to the machinery sprouting out of him, such as the pillar of metal that grows from his neck and the long prosthetic legs that allow him to gallop like a horse. Broderick' shyness would be a pleasant change from the comic arrogance of Don Adams, who did the voice for the original cartoon. Broderick, however, looks troubled and embarrassed. Standing, frozen, waiting to be animated; he's almost wincing. The police chief (Dabney Coleman) hates Inspector Gadget; so does the bitchy mayor (Cheri Oteri). So, too, do the filmmakers, apparently.

The locations are one save. The film is set in "Riverton City," red-brick Pittsburgh, where it previously seemed impossible to make an anxious movie. (In the movie's most inspired choice, the villain's headquarters is the imposing, crypto-Gothic PPG building.) Some Los Angeles locations puncture Inspector Gadget; the filmmakers used ugly chunks of the city. Of course, the CGI halo is on every building, that shabby white light that looks like a sick fluorescent bulb. Moviegoers are giving up on plot and acting. Now that so many films are laden with computer effects, they seem to be giving up on color, too.

The director is David Kellogg, kicked upstairs after a big career in the advertising racket. It's widely believed that the dynamics of commercials and movies are the same. With increased sales resistance, every commercial has to simultaneously sell and anti-sell. Thus commercials are today more penetrating, more insistent, meaner. Kellogg directs this kid's movie with the desperate snideness, noise and franticness of dozens of kid's cereal commercials slammed together. Watching the movie is like listening to a cymbal soloists for an hour and a half.

Inspector Gadget (PG; 90 min.), directed by David Kellogg, written by Dana Olsen and Kerry Ehrin and starring Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman and Rupert Everett, opens Friday at the Cinema 9 in Santa Cruz and the Scotts Valley 6 Cinemas.

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From the July 21-28, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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