Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyonce' Knowles, Emily Mortimer
Steve Martin, Len Blum, Blake Edwards
|Despite the relatively inspired choice of Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau, "The Pink Panther" is a vastly unfunny, often uninspired prequel to the films created by Blake Edwards and the far superior Peter Sellers.
In this "Pink Panther" we learn that Clouseau was his usual bumbling self in a smaller England town when Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) pegs him to solve the murder of a famous soccer coach and the theft of the Pink Panther diamond.
The script, co-penned by the usually insightful Martin, is a tired, hole-filled retread of previously seen gags, stereotypical Clouseau behaviors and Martin's old, but occasionally entertaining, physical comedy and garbled linguistics.
Have you seen Martin's laugh out loud funny film PSA encouraging people to turn off their cell phones? It has been playing as sort of a "Panther" tease before many films recently. This PSA is, in fact, much funnier than anything in "The Pink Panther."
Martin, who has always had a gift for physical comedy, performs admirably here but he's unfortunately placed in a film that offers almost nothing original and very little funny. As Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Kevin Kline may get his sorely needed modest hit, but this is yet another in a string of tired, repetitive performances.
Other supporting players include Beyonce' Knowles and Jean Reno. Knowles is basically recreating her Austin Powers' role that allows her to look beautiful, sing and pretend to be human. Reno, on the other hand, offers his usual dependable performance as a dry, observant detective instructed by Dreyfus to keep an eye on Clouseau.
Perhaps the only supporting performance that really works on every level is that of Emily Mortimer as Nicole. Mortimer offers an on target performance as the charming, loyal assistant to Clouseau. The script's attempt, however, to build a chemistry between Clouseau and Nicole falls embarrassingly flat.
"The Pink Panther" is only mildly worth a view. Martin's performance certainly has its moments, Mortimer is utterly charming and the production design offers stellar views of England and Clouseau's vehicle reminds me of my affection for European vehicles.
Yet, everything in "The Pink Panther" feels forced and lacks the spirit, charm and natural humor of the original "Pink Panther" films. I have read that Martin had serious reservations about tackling such an iconic cinema character created with untouchable style by Peter Sellers. Martin should have trusted his gut feeling and avoided this horrid retread.
Shawn Levy directs Martin for the third time (the "Cheaper by the Dozen" films) and still hasn't learned how to direct Martin's "Wild and Crazy Guy" dual acting personalities. Martin is intelligent AND Martin can also do physical comedy with the best of them...so why does everything here feel so damn forced and uncomfortable? The answer, I fear, is Levy's unsure and remarkably unsteady directing hand.
The sad truth is even the late Henry Mancini's magnificent original "Pink Panther" score has been altered by Christophe Beck in such a way that it feels artificial and trivial.
If this is your first visit with "The Pink Panther," then I simply must insist you rent Sellers' 1964 original film. It is a superior film in every way, and a reminder that you can't force comic brilliance.
If Sellers is up there watching, then this "Pink Panther" will have him seeing red.
|© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic