Plot: Gadget brings Penny and the Gadgetinis to a Halloween party that is really a cover for a MAD agent recruitment drive.
Breakdown: I don’t really ever get an opportunity to talk about this, but I used to really love Inspector Gadget. For those not in the know, Inspector Gadget was a cartoon from the 80s about a cyborg inspector named, what else, Inspector Gadget, voiced by the legend himself, Don Adams, who solves crimes and fights his nemesis, the mysterious usually faceless Dr. Claw, who always gets away no matter what. Most of the time, he doesn’t solve much of anything. His genius detective/tech nerd niece, Penny, and her similarly intelligent dog, Brain, solve most of the mysteries behind Gadget’s back and give him the credit.
Despite the fact that I loved Inspector Gadget, I wasn’t too familiar with the larger Inspector Gadget universe, and it’s surprisingly large. There are direct-to-video movies, some spin-offs, it recently had a reboot as well. The only Inspector Gadget properties I had familiarized myself with outside of the 80s cartoon was the live-action movie starring Matthew Broderick. I know that movie gets a lot of shit for being so different from the cartoon, and that’s fine, it’s fully understandable…..
I really loved the movie.
You could even say there was a period in my life where I was kinda obsessed with it.
Sure, it’s very different from the cartoon. Sure, it’s kinda stupid. Sure, some aspects are actually kinda messed up and a bit overly dark for a kid’s movie. The live-action movie is the origin story of Inspector Gadget, who is named John Brown in this version. We see how and why he became a cyborg in the first place.
Dude got blown the hell up, and his body was so mutilated that they had to replace virtually all of his body with mechanical parts to ensure he could survive. And they specifically gave him crime-fighting gadgets (all of this without his knowledge and against his will) because he had always wanted to be a cop.
We also see Dr. Claw pretty much not be Dr. Claw. He’s actually a rich man named Sanford Scolex played by Rupert Everett. He became Dr. Claw when his hand was crushed by a falling bowling ball and replaced with a prosthetic hydraulic claw hand.
It’s a weird movie, don’t get me wrong, and I haven’t watched it in years so there are probably many things that are even weirder about it now, but I still really loved it once upon a time.
I didn’t much care for the sequel, which wasn’t really a sequel, despite being called Inspector Gadget 2, because they completely disregarded everything from the first movie, recast everyone (barring the Gadgetmobile, for some reason – Guess people really liked DL Hughley?) and completely change the tone and a lot of other stuff to better emulate the cartoon. Though, if you ask me, it didn’t succeed at all. Literally the only two things I remember from that movie are the song ‘Up, Up, Up’ by Rose Falcon, which is awesome, and the fact that they had Gadget fall in love with an android, which was really, really weird. And I don’t mean they did that as a one-off joke. They ended up together….
Blah blah blah segue, which leads us to Gadget and the Gadgetinis, which was a 2002 French spin-off made by Saban’s French studio and DiC in which Gadget, who is now a Lieutenant hired by WOMP, the World Organization of Mega Powers, fights crime alongside his new sidekicks, the Gadgetinis, whom are basically literally mini-Gadgets, even voiced by Maurice LeMarche, named Fidget and Digit. They were made by Penny, who is now a little older.
This series never aired in the US, which I would say explains why I never watched it, but, from all I’ve been reading about it, this show doesn’t sound that good. The concept is iffy enough, but they made some changes that I don’t find appealing.
The biggest changes are in the absence of the Chief and Brain. They’re technically not fully gone as the Chief shows up a couple of times and Brain is discussed, but they’re nowhere near as integral to the series as they were before. In fact, the reason the Gadgetinis were made was because Brain left the picture.
And when you find out why he left the picture, you’ll realize why I’m a bit more put off by the character’s removal that I otherwise would be.
The main Wiki page for the Inspector Gadget franchise said that, in this series, Brain ran away so Penny needed to make the Gadgetinis to replace him. This sounded really weird to me because I just can’t imagine Brain running away. So I went to the main page for the show to figure out why exactly he ran away.
…….They gave Brain intense PTSD for a joke…..
I am not kidding at all. “After years of Gadget repeatedly mistaking him for M.A.D. Agents and trying to apprehend him, Brain is now phobic and nervous when he hears Gadget’s name and has taken refuge in a shack by a lake.” What the actual fuck? Poor Brain! I kinda wish he had just randomly run away. What an awful thing to do to his character.
Anyway, let’s move on to this Halloween special. We start off with the theme song, which is fine in regards to melody, but they have someone, I’ll guess it’s his boss, yelling out “GADGET!” repeatedly as part of the song, and it’s very intrusive and irritating. It’s a shame, because the original Inspector Gadget theme song is so good. It only has a few lyrics, but it’s so memorable and catchy.
In the first scene, which is constantly covered by the opening credits right there smack in the middle of the screen, Gadget, voiced by Maurice LeMarche, nearly kills his new boss, Colonel Nozzaire (pronounced “Nose hair”) because he thinks he’s trapped in a suit of armor, so he comes at him with a buzz saw. It’s actually kinda funny, but I was really distracted by the sound mixing. The sound of the buzz saw drowned out a lot, which is fine, I guess, because it’s a buzz saw, but only a few lines later I realized the music was way too loud and the sound effects as a whole were also too loud while the dialogue tracks were too soft.
Nozzaire tells Gadget to go to Chicago to take Penny to a Halloween party because MAD agents have been detected there (Claw is using the party as a means to recruit new agents). Then we get an overly long gag where Nozzaire is stuck in his armor and Gadget doesn’t notice because he’s prattling on about Halloween. He also makes a caramel apple with an apple he ejects from his chest and a caramel sprayer in his finger. I don’t think the animators know how caramel works because it sprays as easily as water and drips off most of the apple. Gadget leaves while Nozzaire is trapped in his suit of armor covered in caramel.
The MAD goons start their plan of testing the guests to see if they could make potential MAD agents out of them. I guess their testing method is to spring a variety of booby traps on them and see if they….I honestly don’t know. They all survive, and fail, but I don’t see how they’re supposed to pass. Some of the booby traps are even unfair. In one, they immediately strapped the guy into a chair and just did a bunch of slapstick to him. What the hell was he supposed to do there?
Gadget, as expected, doesn’t suspect a single thing as he attends this party, even though it’s clear that the place is littered with criminals. He also doesn’t suspect anything as he suffers the various booby traps in the building.
The MAD goons who are running this test notice that Gadget survived the “chamber of doom” and are impressed with him, despite the fact that the other guy also survived, he just got his teeth knocked out. Gadget, trying to get into character as per his costume, pretends to be a crime boss, which further impresses the goons who then try to recruit him.
Meanwhile, Penny’s investigation leads her to discovering MAD’s plans, although she calls the traps “phony” which I don’t understand. She did notice the ghost was a hologram, but she also saw guys running from fireballs and giant boulders. Fidget and Digit kinda point this out because they’re in a room with traps that have clearly caused damage to the room, and one of them sarcastically says “Good thing the traps are phony.” which implies they’re real, but why would Penny, who is otherwise very smart, just assume all of the traps were phony? That would be kinda funny, though. MAD using fake traps to test potential agents because they’re just concerned about safety.
When Dr. Claw realizes his goons screwed up and recruited Gadget, he sends every criminal in the building after him. Whoever destroys him first gets to be Claw’s right-hand man. It’s kinda weird that there are absolutely no female criminals in this party…….That doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, I just thought it was weird.
Gadget, however, just assumes everyone’s playing Tag, so he runs away. He’s grabbed by someone, thinking that makes him “it” and, for some reason. Gadget seems to believe that you can tag back in Tag, which wasn’t true in most games of Tag that I played. Allowing tag backs just made the game frustrating and no fun.
But that’s not the point.
Except it is the point because the resolution to the plot is based on Gadget’s misunderstanding of Tag. He thinks he’s not it because he tagged back the first person who ‘tagged’ him yet he seems to also believe anyone else who touches him is it and then he turns around and wraps them up in rope to tag them back?…..At least that’s what I think is going on. Most of it happens off screen. Even if tagbacks were allowed in Tag, tying up your opponents is obviously not.
As it continues, it gets a little more understandable. Penny, Fidget and Digit are shown helping Gadget. While Penny activates booby traps to help stop the criminals, Fidget and Digit keep covertly tagging him to ensure he keeps thinking he’s it. This goes on for quite a while. Him thinking he’s playing Tag is okay for a quick gag, but it’s goes on for nearly five minutes.
Penny finally calls the police, and all of the criminals are carted away while Dr. Claw fires his goons. Later, back at HQ, Gadget finally frees Nozzaire and manages to do it without hurting Nozzaire or causing trouble. However, he reveals that he brought the two ex-MAD goons back with him to……I have no goddamn clue. They show up, turn Nozzaire’s hair into a literal ice cream sundae and then leave. It was one of the most random things I’ve seen in recent memory. Absolutely no buildup, not in reference to anything (except….maybe the caramel? Like, what, that they’re both sweets?) and literally came out of nowhere. I thought Gadget was going to give them a new job or something, but nope.
Overall, this episode was fine. It didn’t really get me interested in seeing the rest of the series at all. The Gadgetinis do seem purely like smaller more competent Gadgets. And like I said, they literally are Gadget, in both design and voices. It’s just that they have smaller bodies, different color schemes and higher pitched voices. They’re not that funny or interesting. They’re okay, but I couldn’t even tell them apart, and they didn’t really add anything to the story.
Not that there’s much of a story here anyway. Inspector Gadget was never huge on story – they very much maintained the same trajectory that this show has – but it somehow feels more hollow, and I don’t think it’s an issue of nostalgia goggles.
Maybe this just wasn’t a good episode to start out on, but this viewing experience plus knowing what I know about Brain just makes me feel like they kinda gutted the original show but in small ways that damage it just enough to create a lackluster show.
A lot of iconic aspects of the show aren’t present in this version, which may have been a conscious effort to be different from the 80s incarnation. For instance, we no longer get exploding messages to inform Gadget of his missions. We no longer get his boss hiding in random places while he waits for Gadget to read his mission note, which is always thrown back in his face and blown up without Gadget realizing it most of the time. We don’t get Penny’s iconic computer book. We don’t even get Dr. Claw saying “I’ll get you next time, Gadget. Next time!”
Maybe they thought all that stuff was better left in the past, and maybe that is my nostalgia goggles calling out to me, but those lost factors took a lot of notable stuff from the original series off the table. We do still get Gadget causing trouble, being a complete idiot and using his various Gadgets in somewhat humorous manners. We still get Penny doing all the work behind the scenes, saving her uncle and letting him get all the credit. Dr. Claw’s still the faceless enemy. The main framework is there, though I still don’t forgive the loss of Brain, and while the show, as far as I’ve seen, isn’t that bad, it’s also not that good in my opinion.
As a Halloween episode, this fails pretty hard. I didn’t get Halloween vibes at all. Literally none of this had to involve Halloween. If you took the costumes off of them, absolutely everything would go the same way. I tried really hard to think of aspects of the episode that would justify it, but the best I can come up with is Gadget thinking all of the criminals at the party were just in costumes and some of the booby traps involved holograms of ghosts and stuff. However, Gadget’s so dim he’d probably think that anyway, and scary holograms can also easily be a thing they’d use outside of Halloween. I just don’t think they integrated Halloween well enough here. I didn’t even understand what Penny was supposed to be. A greaser?
Oh well. Maybe I’ll be able to revisit Inspector Gadget sometime in the future, but for now it’s time to move on.
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