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 surprisingly splashy, greatly enhancing pic's eye-popping appeal as a live-action cartoon.

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.

Inspector Gadget 2

Production

A Walt Disney Home Video release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Fountain production. Produced by Charles Hirschhorn, Peter M. Green. Executive producers, Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin, Roger Birnbaum, Jordan Kerner, David Roessell. Directed by Alex Zamm. Screenplay Ron Anderson, William Robertson, Alex Zamm, based on characters created by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin, Bruno Bianchi.

Crew

Camera (color), Geoffrey Wharton; editor, Jimmy Hill; music, Chris Hajian; production designer, Phil Shearer; sound (Dolby Digital), Craig Walmsley; visual and digital effects, Photon VFX Pty Ltd.; visual and digital effects supervisor, Trevor Hawkins; assistant director, Darren Mallett. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, March 23, 2002. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Inspector Gadget - French Stewart G2 - Elaine Hendrix Penny - Caitlin Wachs Claw - Tony Martin Chief Quimby - Mark Mitchell Mayor Wilson - Sigrid Thornton Baxter - Bruce Spence McKible - John Batchelor Brick - James Wardlaw Voice of Gadgetmobile - D.L Hughley

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