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Inspector Gadget 2
cast: French Stewart, Elaine Hendrix, Tony Martin, Caitlin Wachs, and Bruce Spence

director: Alex Zamm

88 minutes (G) 2003 widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Disney NTSC DVD Region 1 rental / retail

RATING: 0/10
reviewed by Noell Wolfgram Evans
Disney recently released for the first time on DVD Inspector Gadget 2. This direct-to-video feature film is a completely unimaginative affair that will have you hoping for your television or your eyes explode within the first three minutes. Inspector Gadget 2 is a sequel to the 1999 Matthew Broderick-starring feature film Inspector Gadget, which was itself a live-action update of the DiC cartoon series, which debuted in 1983, starring the voice of Don Adams.

For the uninitiated, the character of Inspector Gadget (created by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin and Bruno Bianchi) is sort of a cross between RoboCop and Stanley Ipkiss when he's wearing the mask in The Mask. Gadget was a human policeman who was given thousands of robot parts in an attempt to turn him into the ultimate crime-fighting machine. Things though did not go together as smoothly as planned and Gadget's gadgets (which are unleashed to his call of "Go go gadget...") often get in the way more than they help. (For example, he would call "Go go gadget arms" to which his arms should extend but instead, his feet would shorten.) The original cartoon played this bumbling up as one of Gadget's strengths and in the format of a half hour animated series with commercial breaks; things were bumbling and light enough to make the character kind of fun.

Unfortunately for viewers of Inspector Gadget 2 (or 'IG2' as it calls itself) fun was not a mission of the filmmakers as the picture feels more like an attempt to cash in on a franchise rather than further it.

The story picks up where the first one left off, Gadget's nemesis Dr Claw is in jail leaving the town of Riverton virtually crime free. The Inspector is left to use his considerable talents to hunt speeders and other 'vicious' criminals. He is soon challenged though by G2, a new, improved and female version of the gadget police idea. Inspector Gadget finds himself not only challenged in authority by G2, but also challenged emotionally as he quickly falls for her. (This should be awkward though because G2 is a complete robot while Gadget is part robot and part human but since it doesn't seem to bother the screenwriters I won't dwell on it here). For her part, G2 sees Gadget for the incompetent mess that he is and isn't afraid to say so. And so plays the major conflict of the film. Just as G2 is unveiled though, Dr Claw escapes from jail, gathers up a bunch of stock henchmen (including a ninja in a ninja suit named Ninja) and sets about on his plan to steal trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve Branch based in town. Of course it's up to the Gadgets to overcome their adversity of and admiration to each other to save the day.

The story plays out over a series of gags and effects that I think were supposed to give off the feeling of a cartoon, but actually end up giving off the feeling of a bad school play. There can be a number of parties labelled as 'at fault' for this, but the start of the blame should be placed on French Stewart who portrays the title character as if it were a sentence and not a job. Mr Stewart is a usually elastic and energetic actor, a sort of poor man's Jim Carrey, but for some reason he plays Gadget with no joy. The charm of Gadget has always been his clueless sweetness, his heartfelt desire to do good and his ineptitude to do it right. But Stewart reads each of his lines like it's the end of a dull paragraph. On the other hand, Elaine Hendrix has no such problem with her lines. This is probably because as G2 she has hardly any lines. Her main responsibility in the film seems to be walking around stiffly, stopping only to pose. There's a hint in her eyes that she has more to offer and it's just too bad that she couldn't offer it here in what became a confused and underused character. Even when she is used though, her messages are conflicting. Take for example the warehouse battle in which G2 fights three of Claw's henchmen. In the middle of the battle, she takes a moment to apply some Gadget lipstick. It's a great message, 'be tough girls, but look your best in doing so.'

Fans of Inspector Gadget will be happy to know that Brain the Dog and Penny, Gadget's niece, are an integral part of this adventure. They also happen to be its highlights. As played by Caitlin Wachs, Penny is a Nancy Drew for the new millennium. She seems to be the only citizen in Riverton with any smarts and her only drawback was that she doesn't enjoy more screen time. Rounding out the cast is Tony Martin as an all-bellowing Dr Claw. Claw is a villain whose face is never revealed and for that Mr Martin must be thankful.

When talking about the film, one can't overlook the contributions of Alex Zamm, the film's director and writer. As a writer, Mr Zamm was able to take things that may have seemed like bad ideas at first and put them into the script in a way to ensure that they didn't progress into anything better. For example, the villain's hideout is an abandoned bowling accessory factory, which allows our villains to outfit themselves in bowling shoes and shirts. Yeah. As a director, Zamm oversees his script with all of the life of US President Rutherford B. Hayes in his present condition. He is unable to infuse any fun or animation in what is essentially a live action cartoon. The film lacks any energy and cohesion; it makes odd use of transitions and jump cuts, which feel like they are used because no one knew what else to put there; and at times it just doesn't make sense. Take for example the scene in which the entire town is frozen, you even see the birds being frozen in mid-air and then a second later from a different vantage points, there are birds flying around, miraculously thawed out somehow.

Some of the problems in this film stem from the use of digital effects that feel and look like digital effects. You shouldn't be able to see all of the craftsmanship in a piece and this is a case where it feels like you can see the man behind the curtain. A film like this lives and dies on its effects and while the effects here are competent (and plentiful as there are over 500), they feel unpolished and with that seem more like effects for effects sake rather than something that serves the story. On top of that, everything has a 'seen it already' feeling.

It's not as if Inspector Gadget is a hallowed character whose reputation should not be manipulated, rather he's a cartoon character who could use a makeover and an update. In the right hands, this property could play out as a next generation Inspector Clouseau, unfortunately what we have here is an unexciting, uninspired film.

Distributed by Disney, this film is rated G and clocks in at 88 minutes. It is suitable for children, but only if you don't like them.

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