THE PINK PANTHER
*** (out of 5)
February 17, 2006
Steve Martin as INSPECTOR JACQUES CLOUSEAU
Kevin Kline as CHIEF INSPECTOR DREYFUS
Beyoncé Knowles as XANIA
Jean Reno as GENDARME GILBERT PONTON
Emily Mortimer as NICOLE
Studio: Columbia Pictures/MGM
Directed by: Shawn Levy
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There were several reasons why I thought that “The Pink Panther” would be better called “The Stink Panther.” First, after the death of Peter Sellers, the series was cursed with lame attempts to find a new bumbling French inspector. Second, there was this awful “turn off your cell phones” PSA running before movies featuring a very unfunny Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau. And third, the film’s release was bumped twice – once from an August release date.
How bad does a movie have to be to be bumped from the August schedule?
However, when I finally got a chance to see “The Pink Panther,” I found myself chuckling pretty steadily throughout the film. By the end, I really warmed up to the picture.
First, let’s set things straight. No one could ever replace the legendary Peter Sellers in the role of Inspector Clouseau. I love Steve Martin dearly, but I realize that he will never top the late, great Peter Sellers.
However, Martin didn’t try to copy the role. He took it in a different direction, still slaughtering the language with a bad French accent, but choosing to play a different type of Clouseau. There are some parts of his performance that are rough, and at times not very funny. However, he manages to score some great physical comedy spots and has excellent chemistry with co-stars Emily Mortimer, Jean Reno and Clive Owen in a pleasant cameo as British agent 006.
There is something special to note about Jean Reno in this film. He plays a different version of the classic Cato character from the film. Again, the filmmakers chose not to imitate the old movies but show us a different version of them. Instead of casting a typical Asian for Cato, they gave us a new French version. Sure, we lose the massive Blake Edwards slapstick of Clouseau trying to catch Cato off guard, but that’s okay. It doesn’t soil that part of the classic film memories.
This isn’t exactly a remake of the 1963 version of the film. Instead, it’s a different story but still revolving around the pink panther diamond. A French soccer coach is murdered in a crowded stadium, and his priceless pink panther diamond ring has gone missing. In order to catch the culprits with a crack investigation team, the French authorities bring in a patsy to distract the media attention.
The most incompetent police officer they could find was Jacques Clouseau (Steve Martin). He is brought in on the case and manages to bumble his way across Europe and into the Americas on the search for the diamond. However, as much as Clouseau is incompetent, he is also very charming. With some new friends, he tries to crack the case himself.
“The Pink Panther” isn’t a perfect movie by far. It has several jokes that fall flat and lose steam. However, it has more than its fair share of funny moments. They aren’t high-brow moments, but they are funny nonetheless. And aside from some crude humor and sexual innuendo that will go over the heads of children, the comedy in the movie is pretty clean.
I have fond memories of seeing the “Pink Panther” movies in the theatre with my folks – namely “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and “The Revenge of the Pink Panther” (1978). I saw the weak “Trail of the Pink Panther” (1982), which consisted of stock footage of the deceased Peter Sellers, and “Curse of the Pink Panther” (1983) starring Ted Wass (who?!) as a retread of Clouseau. I lost hope there and never endured Roberto Benigni’s “Son of the Pink Panther.”
After the string of disasters that became a real curse of the Pink Panther, I was terrified to see this film. However, it turned out okay. In a strange way, “The Pink Panther” was refreshing. Steve Martin was able to do what no one had done so far – follow in the footsteps of Peter Sellers. Martin could never replace him, and he would never live up to him, but he gave us something new.