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Film / Inspector Gadget

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Inspector Gadget (1999) is a Live-Action Adaptation of the namesake animated series from Walt Disney Pictures, directed by David Kellogg and starring Matthew Broderick, Michelle Trachtenberg, Joely Fisher and Rupert Everett.

The movie opens with an origin story for the titular hero (Broderick). Originally a human security guard named John Brown, he dreams of one day being a respected police officer, though he is continually rejected due to his lack of experience. He also has designs on Brenda Bradford (Fisher), a scientist that works at the cybernetics lab he's employed for. After the lab creates a prototype for a computer chip that can control lifelike robotic limbs, Brown's life changes as Corrupt Corporate Executive Sanford Scolex (Everett) breaks into the lab, kills Brenda's father, and makes off with the prototype foot. When Brown pursues him, the resulting car chase ends with Scolex blowing up his car and leaving him with extensive tissue damage. In the aftermath, Scolex's left hand is crushed, leading to him getting a selection of cybernetic replacements. His favourite replacement (because it looks cool) is a metallic crab-claw. He dubs himself "Claw." As for Brown, Brenda decides to make him the prototype for the "Gadget Program" and repairs his damaged body by converting him into a cyborg with numerous odd and zany functions. Now dubbed "Inspector Gadget," he realizes his dream of joining the police force - though his generally goofy and awkward nature and lack of control over his new hardware makes him something of a walking disaster area. Meanwhile, Scolex still has designs on the technology that created him, as he plans to use it to build an unstoppable robot army to take over the world...

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It was successful enough for Disney to produce a direct-to-video sequel, Inspector Gadget 2 (2003), though none of the original cast returned (except for D.L. Hughley who reprised his role as the Gadgetmobile).

Previews: Two Trailers and TV Spots, Trailer #3.


The film provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Happens a few times to Gadget.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Penny is brunette in this movie, while she was blonde in the cartoon.
  • Adaptation Expansion: We actually learn both Gadget and Claw's real names (okay, Claw's name was eventually revealed in the cartoon) and backstories, with the story of how they got their robotic add-ons taking up the better part of the first act.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Gadget is far more competent in the movie than in the cartoon, and doesn't rely entirely on Penny and Brain.
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  • Adaptation Name Change: In the original cartoon, Claw's birth name was Edward Claw. Here, it's Sanford Scolex.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Granted, the original cartoon never really gave origin stories for Inspector Gadget and Dr. Claw to begin with, but this film chose to make John Brown's conversion into a cyborg have a connection with Sanford Scolex's hand getting crushed and having it replaced with a robotic claw. John Brown is injured in an accident caused by Scolex. However, the explosion also sends a bowling ball flying out of Brown's car and crushes Scolex's left hand as he is closing the sunroof. Yet another thing to note is that Brown was rebuilt as a cyborg as part of the Gadget Project and Scolex's interest in using the technology for his own ends was what caused Brown's accident in the first place.
  • Adapted Out: Dr. Claw was the leader of an international crime syndicate known as M.A.D. in the cartoon, but his evil organization is nowhere to be seen. Instead, he is aided by a thug named Sykes and a bumbling scientist named Kramer.
  • Aside Glance: Gadget reacting to his own bad pun.
    Gadget (to Robo-Gadget's disembodied head): You should've quit while you were ahead.
  • Author Appeal: The bizarrely hyper quick cuts and odd Big Lipped Alligator interludes seem to be a favorite of David Kellogg.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Sanford Scolex.
  • Better Than New: Brown was originally human. Then his body was busted and he was remade into a Super Soldier.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Claw yells this to Kramer.
  • Break Them by Talking: "Have a cocktail! Don't you know bad robots have more fun?"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • The Gadgetmobile tells Gadget to buckle up, because "It's a Disney movie!"
    • There's also the scene where Claw tells Gadget that he's been watching too many Saturday morning cartoons... and then looks directly into the camera, followed by Gadget doing the same thing, and then Kramer leans into the shot for no other purpose than to look into the camera as well.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Most of Gadget's equipment and other related items bears a stylized "G"- presumably the symbol of the Gadget Program.
  • Call-Back: "Our relationship is strictly professional."
  • The Cameo:
  • Creator Cameo: Andy Heyward- head of DIC Entertainment and one of the original series' co-creators- makes a cameo as a party guest, credited (appropriately enough) as "Mr. D.I.C.". He and his wife Evelyn (credited as "Trophy Bride") can be seen in the background when the camera zooms onto Gagdet's tethered ear stuck onto a sculpture.
  • Character in the Logo: The logo had Gadget's silhouette inside a gear.
  • The Cheerleader: For some reason, Robo-Brenda is this.
  • Chekhov's Gun: when Robo-Gadget is first activated, a close-up of him shows a tarantula in a plastic sphere in his body. During his fight with Inspector Gadget, he unleashes this tarantula as a weapon.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Gadget puts the training he received from the guru to good use in the film's climax. His skill with a pen-gun would have counted as this in an earlier draft (at least if the novelization is anything to go by), but the relevant scene was either cut or not filmed at all.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Coincidentally while Claw is screaming about eating brownies... and waffles.
  • Chubby Chaser: Brenda implies that she was one: she tells Scolex that "she liked him better fat."
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: From Gadget during his fight with Robo-Gadget. Thankfully, he's wearing boxers.
    • Also from Scolex, who loses his briefs to Brain while escaping with Brenda.
  • Cool Car: The Gadgetmobile. Now a 1960s Lincoln Continental, it can talk, it has a giant booster rocket and a Skittles compartment.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Scolex/Claw, who will resort to cold-blooded murder to further his goals.
  • Covered in Gunge: Used so much (toothpaste, gum, batter), you wonder if it's a private fetish on the part of a producer/director.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Double subverted. Claw does plan on selling the gadget technology so anyone with enough money can have an army of obedient Super Soldiers but decided to send the first to terrorize the city 'and have some fun'.
  • Damsel in Distress: Brenda in the final act of the film.
  • Darker and Edgier: At least one person gets killed and another critically injured in a series of violent acts that set the plot in motion. Is there any wonder why the MPAA rated the film PG? (Aside from the accidental language, namely, "obtaining the balls", and other innuendo, of course.)
  • Demoted to Extra: Penny; despite being the true hero of the original series and frequent appearances throughout the movie, she rarely plays a part in the main plot of the film until the actual climax, with most of the screentime going exclusively to Gadget, his love interest, or Dr. Claw.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The opening credits sequence.
  • Destroy the Product Placement: An early scene has Sykes crash Scolex's car into a Yahoo! billboard. A "Yahoo!" jingle even plays during the scene.
  • The Ditz: Inspector Gadget, but slightly less so than in the cartoon. The Mayor of Riverton also has shades of this.
  • Dream Sue: At the beginning of the movie, Gadget imagines himself as a super cop. Apparently this happens regularly, as pointed out by Penny.
  • Dull Surprise: "Dull" is stretching it a bit, but Brenda nonetheless reacts remarkably well at the appearance of her robotic lookalike, designed by the man who hired her. And this is all before she even finds out what he did to her father.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Claw's reveal.
  • Enormous Engine: The jet engine deployed by the Gadgetmobile.
    Gadgetmobile: Better buckle up, Penny. This car's got only two speeds. 'Fast' and 'Whoo! What was that?'
  • Evil Is Hammy: You can tell Rupert Everett is having an absolute blast as Claw in the first film.
  • Evil Plan: Acquiring Gadget Technology so he can sell it on the black market and acquiring his crush.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Scolex's tower, portrayed by the highly ornate One PPG Place in Pittsburgh.
  • Exact Words: Gadget uses this tactic a couple of times while going undercover. It backfires on him the second time. Also, the "100 yards" business. Gadgetmobile himself falls victim to this with the word "citation".
  • Fingore: Claw has the fingers of his right hand crushed early in the first film.
  • For the Evulz: In revealing his evil plan, Claw seems quite eager to see the raw chaos that would be unleashed through his robotic warriors upon selling them to the highest bidders; Aside from exacting revenge on Gadget for the loss of his hand, he has no other deeply personal motivations for his crimes.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Brenda and her father.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Double Entendre is the preferred choice.
    • "Hey, I have heat sensors. I know what you were thinking when she gave you that smile..."
    • The film is one of few PG-rated movies to refer to testicles using a vulgar term, albeit accidentally—the guru was pointing to metal balls on the floor in front of him when he mentioned "obtaining the balls", but Gadget grabs his balls accidentally instead. The MPAA still rated the film for language because of it.
    • When the newly operated on John Brown lands on top of Brenda Bradford, she starts talking about how all this was new to him, and he nods sheepishly in agreement. Brenda means having John having the added parts now and being Inspector Gadget, of course. However, given the position they are in, could John be assuming that Brenda meant, well, what two adults usually do in that position- and that he has not done it yet?
    • Robo-Brenda, designed to resemble the woman Claw is obsessed with, is programmed to be a cheerleader.
  • Grammar Nazi: Scolex.
    Gadget (sarcastically): Yeah! I comprende!
    (Scolex winces in barely-controlled fury)
    Scolex: No, no, no. I comprend-o. Yo comprendo. Conjugate the verb, for pity's sake. Kramer, pull the NSA chip before he butchers another language!
  • Gratuitous Italian: Scolex often uses the Italian words "Arrivederci" and "Ciao".
  • Groin Attack: John Brown AKA Inspector Gadget mistakenly does this to the guru while trying to train his new cybernetic body (he was blindfolded for some reason), after the guru tells him to focus on "obtaining the balls" — as in the metal balls on the floor.
    Guru: Ungrip! Ungrip! Turn it off! TURN IT OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!
    Chief Quimby: Well, I guess six million dollars doesn't buy what it used to.
    Brenda: Excuse me.
    [As hospital workers put the guru in an ambulance, with an ice pack on his crotch]
    Guru: He is not a man, you know. He is a monster!
  • Heart Symbol: Appears on Gadget's hat.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Gadget, Brenda.
  • Hook Hand: Dr. Claw.
    • "No no, just... Claw... one word. Like Madonna".
    • "Too bad Hook's already taken, huh?"
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Inspector Gadget's robotic clone Robo-Gadget does this to scare a child that mistakes him for the real Gadget.
  • I Am the Noun: Gadget says "I am the Police."
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Scenes are transitioned with various technological things, like wireframe versions of Gadget's equipment or various mechanical objects.
  • Imagine Spot: Done with thought balloons.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Used by Claw and Gadgetmobile.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Robo-Gadget, who isn't so much impersonating a police officer as he is downright smearing the police officer's good name by committing all sorts of crimes–and takes it so far that Chief Quimby would've arrested the real Gadget had Penny and Sikes not revealed that detail about Claw's Evil Plan.
  • In Name Only: Save for a few shared names and the fact that the main character has bionic implants, but otherwise bears little-to-no resemblance to the 80s cartoon.
  • Inspector Oblivious: He wouldn't be Inspector Gadget if he weren't. In his first day back on the job, he unwittingly helps two escaped convicts break into a Dodge Viper.
  • Insult Backfire: Claw, when told he looked better fat.
    Claw: BRING ON THE BROWNIES! WHEEL IN THE WAFFLES! I'M READY TO BINGE!
  • In the Name of the Moon: Gadget would like to say something heroic like 'in the name of justice' to activate his gadget abilities. Brenda says he could (thus fullfilling this trope) but it wouldn't activate the gadget abilities.
  • I Work Alone: Gadgetmobile says this... before promptly working with Gadget to stop some car thieves.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Quimby is an Obstructive Bureaucrat who refuses to let Gadget work on the Bradford case. However, he makes the very true point that, contrary to the name he was given, Gadget is not actually a police inspector, or even a trained officer. He is just a security guard turned into a publicity stunt that Quimby now has to put up with.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although Quimby can be amoral towards Gadget, he's ultimately a good guy who's willing to help his friend wherever necessary.
  • Killed Off for Real: Artemus Bradford, courtesy of Scolex.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In addition to the instance between Gadget and RoboGadget (see Aside Glance above), there's this exchange between Scolex and Kramer.
    Scolex: Now all I need is a dashing appellation.
    Kramer: What's that? A hillbilly in a tuxedo?
    Scolex: No, you idiot! It's a nickname.
  • Large Ham:
    • Rupert Everett as Claw, so very much.
    • And Robo-Gadget. Who knew Matthew Broderick could be such a wonderful Large Ham?
  • Lean and Mean: Claw himself, who as we find out was formerly a Fat Bastard.
  • Logo Joke:
    • The Walt Disney Pictures castle is completely mechanical at the beginning; in addition, the arc of light that draws itself behind said castle is replaced by the top half of a cog.
    • The end credits has the walking man from the Caravan Pictures logo, forming his Gadget-Copter and flying off. Kind of a metaphor considering this is the last film from the company.
  • Lucky Translation: As lame as Gadget's "You should've quit while you were ahead" pun is, its Polish translation, taking advantage of a well-known if somewhat rarely used phrase that can be roughly rendered as "Dreams of a severed head" (meaning aspirations expressed long past deadline), is arguably pretty funny.
  • Meaningful Name: A Scolex is the front end of a tapeworm.
  • Male Gaze: As she retrieves his manual while explaining his mechanics, Brenda bends over with her butt in full view and this causes Gadget to screech like a monkey.
  • Mad Scientist: Artemus and Brenda Bradford, whose company started Project Gadget, are heroic. Baxter, in the sequel, is more of a "mildly-eccentric scientist" in the employ of Riverton's police department.
  • Mayor Pain: According to Mayor Wilson, Chief Quimby was calling her "Evil Gidget behind her back.
  • Mooks: Sikes and Kramer are Scolex's henchmen.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Gadgetmobile lets Gadget know the two men he helped break into a Dodge Viper (because he thought they had locked themselves out) were actually jailbreakers, he says, "Wait a minute!" before he and the Gadgetmobile go after them.
  • Never Say "Die": Kramer's reaction to the mention of Scolex having nearly killed Gadget.
  • No Fourth Wall: "It's a Disney movie!"
    • There's also the extremely awkward Aside Glance to the audience Scolex and Kramer make to the audience while mocking Gadget.
  • Noodle Implements: Part of the rebuilding sequence involves a wheelbarrow of garden hoses.
    • Where do you think the toothpaste comes from? Now, the Slinkies, Tinketoys and mousetraps on the other hand...
  • Noodle Incident: Gadget mentions taking dance lessons at one point, but he's forced into some fancy footwork when Robo-Gadget fires at his feet before he can elaborate any further.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Penny's science teacher, as revealed in a deleted scene. He was certainly embarrassed when Penny busted him for stealing ice cream from the cafeteria, but he promised to let the principal know he was responsible right away, telling his students to concentrate on their studies as he left the classroom.
  • Off with His Head!: Claw to Kramer when ordering him to remove Gadget's chip (though he gives him points for at least locating the chip before fainting):
    Claw: Do it, or you'll be building yourself a new head.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Artemis has a quick moment of terror when he realizes that Scolex is going to kill him.
    • John utters "Oh, boy..." before Scolex's cigar explodes right near his Chevette.
  • Only One Name: "Just Claw. One word. Like Madonna."
  • Overused Running Gag: The gag of the hearts popping up on Gadget's hat showing he's in love happens several times.
  • Ow My X: Sanford Scolex says this as the bowling bowl crushes his left hand.
  • Pedal to the Metal Shot: Not a pedal, but pulling hard on the Gadgetmobile's "jet thruster release" handle has the same effect. Later on, Brenda slams down hard on the brake when they catch up to Claw's limo.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: During the climax, Gadget manages to thwart Claw's escape by throwing a pen into the latter's helicopter, hitting his claw hand and forcing it shut, crushing the chopper's control stick.
  • Police are Useless: The cops are completely helpless to stop Robo-Gadget's rampage across Riverton.
  • The Power of Friendship: When Penny reaches out to Sikes near the end, prompting his Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Power of Love: Gadget is brought back to 'life' with a kiss.
  • Product Placement:
    • YAHOOOOOO-OOO! That's right, Disney actually used the Yahoo yodel as the billboard falls on the limousine near the start of the film!
    • Gadget is featured on the cover of The Sharper Image catalog.
    • The Gadgetmobile also dispenses Skittles and Coke products.
    • One of the cars in the beginning belongs to Pennzoil.
    • McDonald's.
    • Claw calls Gadget "Roto-Rooter Man" upon hearing of his demotion.
    • There is a Sony television at Sikes' room.
  • Promoted Upstairs: John Brown, a security guard with two years of experience and not the brightest bulb around, is promoted to Police Inspector upon his lifechanging revival.
  • Reality Ensues: Brown asks Chief Quimby when he'll be put on the big case. The chief assures him he has something for him to "cut [his] teeth on". Cut to a newspaper montage of Brown being a crossing guard and helping the sanitation department. Remember, Brown is a security guard who was rejected from the police academy early in the film, and is markedly incompetent even after being upgraded. In fact, it's the central joke of the character.
  • Research, Inc.: Bradford Labs
  • Revenge: Inadvertent when presented onscreen, inverted when Gadget and Claw bring up that particular incident that "made" them:
    Gadget: I owe you one, Scolex. You blew up me and my Chevette. And I really liked that car!
    Claw: Well, you crushed my hand, and I really liked that hand. So Go Go get over it.
  • The Reveal: Claw's face is fully seen by the audience all throughout the movie, as opposed to it being constantly obscured in the cartoon. In his first scene, it is barely concealed by the shadows before he emerges with it fully uncovered.
  • Robot Girl: Robo-Brenda..!
  • Rollerblade Good: Gadget's shoes can inexplicably turn into rollerblades with tiny gas-powered motors attached. The sequel ditches this for an even more implausible scooter, which comes out of Gadget's shoe.
  • Shotgun Dance: "You know how to dance, don't you?"
  • Shout-Out:
    • The knob for the helmet voltage goes up to 11.
    • Godzilla; when Robo-gadget is rampaging through the City, he imitates Godzilla with his shadow. The scene also had a Japanese man running away from Robo-gadget, while screaming that this is why he left Tokyo.
    • Minion Kramer's hair is reminiscent of another Kramer.
    • Mayor Wilson says that Chief Quimby calls her "Evil Gidget" behind her back.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Among other things, Gadget's hat-based rocket launcher, which blows up a car when Brenda arouses him; his head, when Brenda shows up to the gala; and his foot-based rocket launcher, in the final pre-closing credits scene.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Claw can take off his mechanical pincher-hand and replace it with cosmetic ones for different occasions. Claw only uses one of them once, much preferring the titular claw.
  • Talking Appliance Sidekick: The Gadgetmobile.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When John pursues Scolex, Thelma says "This isn't going to end well."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Robo-Brenda, so much so that she actually flips herself off the roof of a skyscraper.
  • Translator Collar: Which they for some reason forgot about and had to re-invent for the second film.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Sikes' minion support group seen during the credits.
  • We Can Rule Together: Robo-Gadget to the real Gadget.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Claw was captured, Sikes went to rehab... so what happened to Kramer?
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted. Unlike the original series' ambiguous location of Metro City, this one is set in the equally fictional city of Riverton, Ohio (though it's actually Pittsburgh- perhaps it's the Pittsburgh equivalent of an alternate universe?).
  • A Wizard Did It
    • Dog translator collar? Supercop cybernetics? Cybernetic control chip? Dr. Bradford and her father did it. Even Kramer's work is based on duplicating her work. It even turns out that Dr. Claw's whole reason for losing weight, getting rich, and being a supervillain was to find a way to impress her (he's fancied her since they went to boarding school together).
  • Worst Aid: In an early trailer, he codes during the transformation surgery. What do they do to revive him? Administer the most scientifically-proven medical treatment known to man: The Miraculous Bitchslap of Life.
  • You're Insane!: Brenda say this to Claw near the end of the film. He calmly agrees.
  • You Killed My Father: Quoted during the climax:
    Claw: So what's new?
    Brenda: Hel-LO, you killed my father!

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