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The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther will be palpably funny to kids who know not of its legacy. It's hard to imagine this remake ever being laugh-till-you-cry funny, but it seems as though demography calculations (see Beyonce as the female lead) sucked some potential out of it.


Even for young people who blank when Peter Sellers' name is mentioned, Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme means Inspector Clouseau is back—the song's more famous than a Beyonce Knowles tune! The latest "episode": After France's soccer coach is murdered and his Pink Panther ring stolen, an opportunistic Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) calls on Clouseau to botch the investigation and thereby make himself a hero. "Ze inspyecteur" clumsily tackles the case and almost everybody he meets along the way, including his sidekick, Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno), his pretty coworker, Nicole (Emily Mortimer), and international pop star Xania (Knowles), the coach's girlfriend. Clouseau ignorantly bumbles along, embarrassing all in his path, en route to meager investigatory work. The clean end result is obvious, so the story revolves around the series of minor calamities he sets into motion on the way.


Granted, most viewers' frame of reference for the film will be its cartoon series, but Martin's take on the iconic Clouseau will still be met with skepticism. His SNL mania makes cameos, and the scenes from the trailer are all indeed hilarious for young and old viewers, but both are few and far between. Martin does physical comedy perhaps better than anyone, but it doesn't translate to a nouveau Clouseau—only a non-blasphemous one. Then there's Beyonce... So beautiful, so glamorous, such a good voice. Those strengths are apparently enough to land top billing, while acting—her weakness—takes a backseat. The fact that her dubious character's longest scene comes while inexplicably performing a song condemns the film to one of modern-vanity, when it in spots feels nostalgic. Kline, also contributing little, makes it seem like he hammered out his role on a brief jaunt to Paris.


Shawn Levy seems to be on the same page with Martin (whom he's now directed or produced in three films), mass audiences and (thus) financiers. His mastery poor-man's slapstick continues, and is in full-swing, in Panther, which will possibly take him from the proverbial "cusp" to the "big times" as a director. Levy shows great skill in showcasing the best that Martin has to offer as a physical comedian. Martin, who co-wrote the film, and Levy do make a formidable team when it comes to pratfall humor, but like their Cheaper by the Dozen collaborations, "enough is enough" is the overwhelming feeling midway in. As for the big blunders, think more PG-rated Naked Gun gags--complete with a Lt. Drebin look-alike—than Panther hilarity of '63. Overall, Levy again displays promise, but it'd be nice to see what he's really capable of as a filmmaker, rather than a film manipulator.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.