Release Date: Feb. 6
Director: Harald Zwart
Writers: Scott Neustadter,
Michael H. Weber, Steve Martin
Cinematographer: Denis Crossan
Starring: Steve Martin, Jean
Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina
Sony/Columbia/MGM, 92 mins.
It’s not freakishly, impressively
terrible like The Love Guru, but The Pink Panther 2 is
an extremely uninspired oddity, as if it's aimed at children who like
jokes about ogling women or at adults who remember the older films
and like to see them redone with different actors. Lots of them.
Rarely has a number in a film title seemed so strangeAnd rarely has a number in a film title
seemed so strange. Of all the ways that you could count the long
string of Pink Panther movies or count the number of people who've
played the bumbling detective, it's hard to come up with "two"
for the latest. But it's the second one starring Steve Martin as
Jacques Clouseau, and since Blake Edwards called his second and best
Clouseau film A Shot in the Dark (1964), the title was
available. Now, at last, the slot has been filled.
Edwards is not involved in the new one,
but even when he was at the helm, the series was a bumpy ride. That
sacred ground has long since been trampled by people trying to milk
the formula, and the best way to do right by that history would be to
make a funny movie. Unfortunately, the new film has a handful of
chuckles, at most. A quick gag involving Andy Garcia and a hand
mirror made me smile, and so did a couple of irreverent visual jokes
involving the pope. A promising bit that has Clouseau tossing wine
bottles willy-nilly across a crowded restaurant runs out of ideas
just as its momentum is building, but the film never dwells. It moves
swiftly on, leaving minor disappointment in its wake.
Many of the pratfalls and stunts are
more curious than funny, which was true of the 1970s films, too. In
this age of CGI effects, it's almost endearing to see someone wearing
a Steve Martin wig crash through walls and dangle from stunt wires,
with little attempt to hide the mismatched face. And Martin's hideous
mugging and ridiculous accent probably flatten more jokes than they
inflate, as audiences struggle to make out the punch lines. He seems
to have picked up where Peter Sellers left off in the later films
instead of where he was funny in the earlier ones.
What's most unusual about the "2"
in the title is that it encourages us to ignore history even while
the film itself riffs on the old comedies, like Chrisopher Nolan
adding a Prince tune to The Dark Knight. Instead of Cato, who
is ordered to attack Clouseau when he least expects it, Clouseau has
two karate kids staying in his flat for reasons that make little
sense. Instead of ogling beautiful women, Clouseau, yes, ogles
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, but also receives an upbraiding from Lily
Tomlin who guides his old-fashioned ways toward the current century.
The filmmakers are either alluding to the old films or they’re
lazily adapting them for a modern audience.
But who is this modern audience? And
why cast such strong, funny actors (Alfred Molina! Jeremy Irons!)
only to relegate them to reaction shots that are parceled out like
contractual obligations? Having set up an unwieldy “dream team”
of detectives who will solve a string of high-profile heists, the
film zips past failed set pieces, ties up its mystery story, and
pounces to a halt without a single hearty laugh. The Pink Panther
2 is like the meat that Jeff Goldblum sent through the teleporter
in The Fly: looks familiar, tastes weird. The steak’s sizzle
is surprisingly hard to duplicate.