Inspector Gadget’s Brain was the best part of the movies, easily.
Inspector Gadget’s Brain is without question the best part of the movies. While fans of the 1980’s syndicated cartoon series may disagree, it seems kind of obvious.
If you don’t remember it (or blocked it out of your memory), Inspector Gadget is a 1999 Disney comedy that moves at a frantic pace (80 minutes, 12 of which are credits), starring Matthew Broderick (WarGames, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1998 Godzilla) as the clueless eponymous cyborg police officer, Michelle Trachtenberg as his niece Penny, Joely Fisher as would-be love interest Brenda Bradford and comedian DL Hughley as the voice of his car, the Gadgetmobile.
While I loved it as a kid (had the complete McDonald’s Happy Meal set of tie-in toys), even then I knew it was terrible, and a recent rewatch really confirmed this opinion.
After security guard John Brown is killed during a robbery, he is rebuilt and resurrected as a cyborg, sworn into the Riverton Police Department as a PR stunt, and stumbles his way through finding the guy who killed him, a rich businessman named Sanford Scolex (AKA Dr. Claw).
There are a disconcerting amount of random spoof attempts ranging from Mission: Impossible to Godzilla and the 1960’s Batman TV series, some of which work better than others. (Dabney Coleman’s line about a cross between Columbo and a Nintendo is about the best quote.)
Rupert Everett’s Claw was nothing like the cartoon version, instead being an unhinged creeper, and Gadget himself harassed Brenda throughout the movie as well. Penny is more like Gadget’s mother than his pre-teen niece, which is a little odd,
On the other hand, there is Brain, Penny’s Beagle, who is the reason I fell in love with the breed. (Possibly Skip in My Dog Skip helped with this, too.) He contributes to the film by comforting various characters when they need it and stealing a minion’s underwear during the final fight sequence.
In other canine moments, during a dream sequence Brown flings a Chihuahua across a street (and then catches it safely), and a car theft is accomplished in front of a vet clinic.
In a end-credits cameo, Don Adams provides the voice of Brain as he talks to Penny via a collar walkie talkie. Adams, of course, voiced Gadget in the original series and its various spinoffs, which were somewhat of a parody of his role as the main character in Get Smart, which was itself a parody of spy movies.
Inspector Gadget’s Brain also took part in the sequel, which was a good thing.
Inspector Gadget 2, released straight-to-video in 2003, only kept Hughley out of the original cast, replacing Broderick with French Stewart (Third Rock from the Sun), Trachtenberg with Caitlin Wachs (Commander in Chief), and Fisher with Elaine Hendrix (The Parent Trap) as G2, the new and improved version of Gadget.
Brain also talked here, as voice actor Jeff Bennett took over the role.
Some of the canine connections of note here: Hendrix and Bennett both had roles in the first sequel in the Beverly Hills Chihuahua series, and Wachs played Andrea Framm in Air Bud: World Pup and Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch.
This is a much better movie, for while the writing is shallow, pace narcoleptic, and set design curious (Speed Racer is a good comparison color-wise, and Riverton has randomly moved from being Cincinnati to the middle of rural Iowa), the story is coherent, and the cast does the best they can with what they have to work with. It’s also much more in line with the cartoon series.
Penny is much more active as an aspiring middle-school detective, and Brain helps out by accompanying her on stakeouts, in addition to encouraging her when necessary and independently stealing a minion’s bowling shoe. He also provides the location of the villains’ hideout by speaking with the help of a bark translation collar.
The original animated series got a Netflix reboot in 2015, and according to an October 2019 article from The Hollywood Reporter, a reboot of the films is in the works for release through Disney Plus. Hopefully they will include Inspector Gadget’s Brain in a prominent role.