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Matthew Broderick lets the gizmos take top billing

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Matthew Broderick, Inspector Gadget

With ”Inspector Gadget” joining a long list of special-effects-stuffed summer fare (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?), computer-generated gimmickry is becoming the rule instead of the exception in Hollywood. But are all the gizmos beginning to overshadow boring old human actors? ”You’re a little piece of a large thing,” admits ”Gadget” star Matthew Broderick, who previously played second banana to a fake lizard in ”Godzilla.” ”Hopefully all the gizmos serve to further the scene and make it better. But this isn’t something I would want to do every time I work.”

He may not have much of a choice. According to F/X wizard Stan Winston, whose studio provided fabulous fakery for ”Gadget” as well as ”Jurassic Park” and ”Terminator 2,” the nonstop advancements in technology are just too good (and often too cheap) for filmmakers to resist. ”You can do virtually everything by computer,” says Winston, who helped Broderick sprout stilts, extendible arms, and a skullcap propeller in the film.

Even so, Winston says it’s unlikely that these digital tricks will ever replace actors: ”Computer-generated effects are too synthetic. It’s like people being paranoid that TV would eliminate movies.” But as the quality of special effects improve, the price could be fewer great performances. ”Fifty percent of acting is reacting, and the performance can’t be as good if there’s nothing there to react to,” explains Winston, who took special care in ”Gadget” to make the human and effects connection a ”seamless synch. In this movie, Matthew Broderick drives the effects, not the other way around.” Let’s hope it’ll also work that way if Broderick signs to do ”Godzilla 2.”

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