I'd seen 'The Pink Panther' or rather, the Steve Martin remake of 'The Pink Panther', and was totally under whelmed by it - but was told that the sequel, wittily entitled 'The Pink Panther 2' was much better, so I settled down to what I hoped would be an enjoyable experience with some much needed laughs. You have to be careful who you believe these days.
Now, Steve Martin is a funny, talented man who has tickled my funny bone more than once with 'The Man with Two Brains' and 'L.A. Story' in the past. In 'The Pink Panther 2' he is supported by a great cast including John Cleese, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno and Lily Tomlin. Surely it couldn't fail?
Well, it looks like they got the production budget and green light based upon the quality of the cast. As for the script - aah, don't worry about it, we can take care of that later ... much later. Probably the day before shooting began, written on the back of a Corn Flakes packet.
Steve Martin works very hard to re-invent the Clouseau character in such a way as to play to his own strengths - in this case mostly physical comedy.
I felt that I wasn't consciously comparing him or the film to a Peters Sellers Clouseau movie, but I guess that really must have been the root cause of my overall disappointment. I remember watching the Sellers movies almost hypnotised in wonder at what Clouseau's next act of ineptitude would be - and his antics were generally worth the wait.
They say that it is better to travel hopefully than to have arrived, but I travelled hopefully for the full 92 minutes of its running time and felt that what I was hoping for never did arrive. Ah well, thank goodness for small mercies - at least it wasn't a 3 hour job.
So what's the story?
After having been rewarded for solving the mystery of the Pink Panther diamond, Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Martin) has been assigned to issuing parking tickets by his boss, Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese) to keep him out of the way. Unfortunately, the famous diamond has once again been stolen as have many other artefacts, including the Shroud of Turin and the Magna Carta, in a series of burglaries around the world. His past success enables Inspector Clouseau to be part of the Dream Team of the greatest detectives from the afflicted countries. They're a motley crew: smooth-talking Vicenzo (Andy Garcia), schoolboyish Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki), glamorous ex-journalist Sonia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), and beardy Pepperidge (Alfred Molina). Almost immediately they decide they know the person responsible, an aristocratic fence called Avellaneda (Jeremy Irons) working in cahoots with someone played by French rock'n'roller Johnny Hallyday.
'Naturellement, zey are oeull wreoung' and of course, it falls to Clouseau, while taking lessons from a political correctness coach played by Lily Tomlin, to solve the crime.
Along the way we have some fairly unimaginatively shot slapstick sequences, none of which rival the kind of thing that Blake Edwards ever came up with - as they are all so predictable. On taking his girlfriend Nicole (a frumpy looking Emily Mortimer) to a restaurant, the Plata de Nada, Clouseau bumps into a large wine rack and the expensive bottles fall out one by one as our hero performs a one man juggling routine to save them. Yup, that's original.
Steve Martin was wrong as Clouseau in 'The Pink Panther' and he's still wrong for the role in 'The Pink Panther 2'. His attempts to torture the French language in the style of Sellers are just not funny. There's also nothing in his portrayal of the character that makes us like, feel sorry for or care about the buffoon.
The petty rivalries between the world's greatest detectives just come across as childish nonsense.
Clearly, director Shawn Levy was blamed for the failure of the 2006 movie 'The Pink Panther', so he was replaced on 'The Pink Panther 2' by Harald Zwart - who is instantly memorable for such comedy classics as 'Agent Cody Banks' and 'One Night at McCool's'. Yes, I know - sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but hey, that's the level we're at here.
Overall, what we have here is a bunch of quality actors swallowing their pride and paying the mortgage. I can only conclude that this movie may be a success in non-English speaking parts of the world where Mr Bean has been a great hit due to its reliance on physical comedy to communicate with its audience.
Thinking hard on how to end on a positive note, I have to admit that there is one part of the movie I really enjoyed and that was the opening title sequence complete with the famous Henry Mancini scored Pink Panther theme.
After all these years, it's still a great tune.
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