Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin, Aishwarya Rai, John Cleese, Alfred Molina
Steve Martin, Michael Weber, Scott Neustadter
If you've been one of my readers since 2006, then you already know what to expect from my review of "Pink Panther 2," a wholly unnecessary film created solely because enough of you made the misguided decision to see Steve Martin's first turn as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
I hated that first film. What did I give it? A 1.0 or 1.5-star rating? I don't remember, and I don't care enough to look it up.
I like Steve Martin. In fact, I love Steve Martin.
The role of Inspector Clouseau seems rather tailor made for his brand of sly, physical comedy even if it's destined to fall short of Peter Sellers.
Why doesn't it work?
"Pink Panther 2" reminds me, in a way, of Dave Chappelle's "Block Party," a high-spirited indie concert film directed by Michel Gondry in which Chappelle basically threw together a party and invited whomever he pleased.
Martin, who co-writes "Pink Panther 2," seems to do the same thing here in creating what is essentially a series of comedy sketches starring a delightfully diverse cast without form or function.
Sadly, most of the "sketches" aren't even that funny.
The semblance of a plot involves Clouseau being picked to head up a team of crackpot investigators to solve the case of The Tornado, who's going around stealing a bunch of historical items and, it is feared, may be targeting the legendary Pink Panther Diamond.
That's the story. If you're expecting more, I've saved you the trouble and you can leave your expectations at the door.
There's nothing else.
Oh, wait. I'm wrong.
Steve Martin falls.
He falls again.
He falls more.
Oh, and he has this warbled French accent.
Virtually everyone in "Pink Panther" seems to play the straight man to Martin's bumbling ole' Clouseau, including fellow detectives Vicenzo (Andy Garcia) and Pepperidge (Alfred Molina) along with the likes of Clouseau's trusted assistant (Emily Mortimer), his sidekick (Jean Reno) and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese), who does get to be a bit funny!
Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachcan is largely wasted here, while Lily Tomlin's appearance as Mrs. Berenger seems not much than than an opportunity for Martin to offer an old friend a new gig. Jeremy Irons, yes the Oscar winner, fares worst of all in a role so slight that it almost hurts to watch.
Harald Zwart ("Agent Cody Banks") directs, but seems content to allow Steve Martin to do as Steve Martin pleases.
To his credit, Martin does seem determined to make audiences laugh during "Pink Panther 2" and I will confess that I actually found this film a bit funnier than I did the first film, perhaps owing as much to the film's talented cast.
It is Martin himself that hurts "Pink Panther 2" the most, an observation that both surprises and troubles me. While I'd never expect a Martin-led "Pink Panther" film to rival the best of Sellers, this IS a role that Martin can pull off and he seems to take a kid glove approach to it feels far too safe and devoid of risk.
In Martin's early film days, he wasn't afraid to take a chance and, on occasion, he failed miserably. Yet, you always admired that he was risking it all to entertain us. With "Pink Panther 2," Martin plays Inspector Clouseau with an almost uncomfortable reverence that leaves the film without a comic edge.
Bumbling Inspector Clouseau? Unfortunately, Martin and director Harald Zwart have bumbled "Pink Panther 2."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic