Friday, February 20, 2009

The Pink Panther Strikes Again

When the world's greatest treasures, including the Pink Panther Diamond, are stolen, only one man can solve the mystery: Clouseau (Steve Martin). Together with his partner Ponton (Jean Reno) and a team of international detectives, the bumbling detective must catch the thief and retrieve the artifacts -- without causing too much collateral damage in the process in Pink Panther 2. 

Martin once again trades his banjo for the kooky cop cap in his return to the Pink Panther franchise. The inherently 1960s concept—first developed by Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers—remains intact, with equal parts slapstick, high style and a whole lot of sneak-thieving and lady-ogling. Judged by those standards, Pink Panther 2 does fine, especially given that the audience is obviously kids. We open with Clouseau biding his time as a parking-meter cop in Paris, as meticulous as he is clueless about his demotion from le snoop extraordinaire. A new cat burglar named Tornado is padding about, stealing national treasures, and it's only a matter of time before Clouseau is literally plucked from the gutter to save the jour. He joins what amounts to a dream team both on- and off-screen, including the always-terrific Alfred Molina as a British master of deduction, Jean Reno as an admiring fellow French sleuth, sexpot Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as does-it-really-matter and Andy Garcia as an Italian. Of course, Clouseau bungles everything he touches, including physical evidence, a private audience with the pope and a fits-and-starts relationship with his pliant secretary, Nicole (Emily Mortimer). The result is the usual chandelier-swinging, costume-swapping, chimney-crashing and at least two scenes where the same restaurant gets lit on fire. And at one point, the legendary Pink Panther diamond has to disappear—again—because otherwise the producers would have to sit around thinking of some new movie title. But just when the stretched-thin plot seems ready to snap entirely, the cast or the script—cowritten by the very witty Martin—pulls out a zinger that manages to please everybody. The cast alone may be worth a ticket, if not a rental. A scene between Martin and Molina, in which the two square off on their deduction abilities, has the makings of an instant classic. They have a blast sparring, spoofing and doing word play with Martin and each other. Nothing here is gut-busting, but you will catch yourself laughing out loud on occasion and completely entertained by the comedy. By the way, if you’re tempted to pop up and refill the popcorn or hit the powder room, don’t do it during the scene at the Vatican. After the pontiff’s ring is stolen, a clueless Clouseau and the gang of detectives investigate. It is the funniest scene in a film full of them. Another highlight is Martin and old friend/comedienne Lily Tomlin doing some spot-on politically incorrect bits on political correctness. By my count there have been 11 Pink Panther movies. Originally a main character in a Blake Edwards heist spoof, the late Peter Sellers played Inspector Jacques Clouseau five times. Some viewed Sellers as a genius. Others—me included—didn’t find Sellers or his movies that funny. Comedian Steve Martin—modeling his interpretation of the character after Sellers—nearly put an end to a brilliant comedy career doing his vision of The Pink Panther. It wound up on lots of worst of the year lists in 2006. Though it isn’t likely to end up on anyone’s best list, after a long week of financial worries, children worries, job worries, The Pink Panther 2 hits all the right notes and is an excellent 90-minute escape. Go and see it and have a good laugh. A 3 on my "Goe See" scale.

No comments: