Although appreciably less broad and overbearing than its 1999 theatrical predecessor, “Inspector Gadget 2” is a made-for-video product pitched primarily at moppets and pre-teens with short attention spans. Special effects are, by homevid standards, surprisingly splashy, greatly enhancing pic’s eye-popping appeal as a live-action cartoon. Brisk sell-through biz likely will generate additional chapters in franchise.
Purists, take note: Sequel helmer Alex Zamm, working from a script he co-wrote with Ron Anderson and William Robertson, adheres more closely to mythos of the source material than did the first installment.
Loosely based on the 1980s TV cartoon series about a bumbling bionic crime fighter, original “Gadget” pic had Matthew Broderick overplaying gee-whiz ingenuousness in title role. “Gadget 2” has French Stewart (TV’s “Third Rock From the Sun”) behaving much more like the slightly less lovable toon character, an ego-driven, gizmo-enhanced cyborg with an unreliable array of weaponry and a laughably unmerited self-confidence.
A nice touch: Stewart often sounds like Don Adams, who voiced Gadget in the TV series. A nicer touch: Stewart proves an apt choice for a character who frequently evolves into a special effect.
Sequel returns to Riverton, a.k.a. The Safest City in America, where Gadget once again matches wits with arch-villain Claw (a shadow-shrouded Tony Martin). Unimpressed by Gadget’s initial missteps, city leaders commission a new and improved robocop, G2 (Elaine Hendrix in drum majorette attire), to take over the case. Predictably, rivalry between competing crime fighters turns into love, or something like it.
Plot earns few points for originality — Claw’s latest weapon, a time freezing device, appears swiped from the recent “Clockstoppers,” which also featured French — but literally cartoonish antics of game cast should please target demographic.
As the voice of Gadget’s very animated Gadgetmobile, D.L. Hughley is only returnee from previous pic. Australian locations — sequel was shot in Brisbane, Queensland — are attractive.