*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras B-
starring French Stewart, Elaine Hendrix, Caitlin Wachs
sceenplay by Ron Anderson and William Robertson & Alex Zamm
directed by Alex Zamm
by Bill Chambers Edited with the cuisinart clarity of a car commercial, designed with a balloon-animal colour palette similar to that of last year's psychedelic Thomas in Love, Inspector Gadget 2 (henceforth IG2--incidentally, the on-screen logo reads Inspector 2 Gadget) has style in theory, like Avril Lavigne, but is monotonous and exasperating--also like Avril Lavigne. I haven't seen the original film, but I did watch the cartoon every morning before school as a kid (we used to sing our own version of the theme song in the playground: "Doo doo doo doo do, Inspector Goo-head"--ah, those halcyon days), so I recognize certain touchstones the sequel, um, touches: faceless supervillain with the pussycat emblem Dr. Claw (who, robbed of his synthetic speech in addition to his lap kitty, looks and acts like Truman Capote in IG2); Inspector Gadget's niece, Penny (Caitlin Wachs), and her dog Brain (in IG2, a beagle without the flexibility of his animated counterpart), both fledgling detectives; and the always-fuming Chief Quimby (Mark Mitchell), who does not pop out of mailboxes and such things here to deliver messages to Gadget that self-destruct. More disappointingly, he does not have a moustache.
I don't actually give a hoot about IG2's fidelity to the show, but it's interesting to learn that its departures from the cartoon differ from the first film's. For instance, Claw showed his visage in Inspector Gadget, and was played by the somewhat dashing Rupert Everett--awful casting, if you ask me, since Claw is Blofeld, not Bond (Gadget's nemesis in cartoon form is a few notches closer to the Capote of Murder by Death, at least); and Dabney Coleman essayed the role of the Chief, meaning he probably had a moustache, although a reader will have to assist me in clarifying this, as well as whether Coleman's Chief popped out of mailboxes and such things. IG2's casting coup is "3rd Rock From the Sun"'s French Stewart, taking over for Matthew Broderick--and doing a damn good job, all things considered--as the titular policeman/Cronenbergian nightmare with contraptions built into his body, his hat, and his overcoat that spring forth when issued the command "Go-Go Gadget" Whatever.
Stewart possesses what would seem to be the two most important qualities for an actor to do the character justice: lankiness, and a propensity for silliness. (Perhaps a third: he comes cheap.) Broderick, for all his comedy experience (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Election, Godzilla...), is not enough of a nincompoop. If it weren't for the infectiously gung ho Stewart, IG2--in which Inspector Gadget must team up with Elaine Hendrix's sleek fembot G2 (with whom he, a human with cybernetic installations, falls in love, raising obvious issues the film can't be bothered to deal with--she reciprocates without the bat of a screenwriter's eyelash) to stop the nefarious Claw--would still suggest a reactor leak at the Crayola factory, but, y'know, more so. In fairness, it's pretty harmless as children's entertainment.
Disney's juvie-oriented, THX-certified DVD release of the direct-to-video production Inspector Gadget 2 presents the film in 1.66:1, "family-friendly" anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Though the image is bright and crystal clear, its colours are so bold as to weary the eyes. The mix is more naturalistic than one expects: the bass has different degrees of deep, while due consideration is given to the placement of localized and ambient effects. A main menu Easter egg jumps to... a different main menu, which leads to a few pages of bonus material. For starters, there is the "Illustrated Gadget," wherein you select G1 or G2 for a closer look at their gadgets. (With regards to G2, no, not those gadgets.) A trying "Gadget Training Simulator" allows you to drive the inspector's car with the assistance of its Knight Rider interface, while thirteen (!) behind-the-scenes featurettes, invariably titled after specific gadgets, are less about the special effects than they are about their implementation within the plot.
Twelve deleted scenes featuring optional commentary from director Alex Zamm are more of the same, to the extent that I thought I'd already seen a number of them. Zamm goes it alone in the first movie-length yakker and joins the affable pair of Stewart and Hendrix for a second, and to be honest, these are pretty good commentaries--maybe naively, nobody's afraid of alienating the younger viewers, with Zamm calling his Gadget "quixotic" out of the gate. The challenges--such as having had to voice-coach a cast that hails almost entirely from Down Under (including Mad Max 2's Bruce Spence)--of shooting the low-budget production in Australia dominate the group's conversation. An amusing 3-minute outtakes reel, a stereo music-only track for the film (curiouser and curiouser--Chris Hajian's score ain't that good), Rose Falcon's video for "Up, Up, Up," and a register your DVD reminder round out the disc, which begins with pre-menu sneak peeks at Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, Atlantis II: Milo's Return, George of the Jungle 2, Bionicle: The Movie - Mask of Light, and The Lion King: Special Edition. Originally published: March 10, 2003.
88 minutes; G; 1.66:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 5.1, French DD 2.0 (Stereo); CC; DVD-9; Region One; Disney