February 05, 2009

The Pink Panther 2

"I'm gonna wash this role right out of my hair..."

Grade: D
Director: Harald Zwart
Starring: Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, John Cleese, Lily Tomlin, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

don't blame Steve Martin for making The Pink Panther 2. There is not exactly a wealth of plum film roles reserved for 60-something-year-old comedians, no matter their résumé ("paging Chevy Chase..."). And, although reviving the rather outmoded “Pink Panther” movie series seemed questionable when Martin assumed the role of Inspector Jacques Clouseau in February of 2006, the nearly $159 million worldwide box office gross that followed silenced many naysayers.

Martin is a talented entertainer who has parlayed his wild and crazy stand-up act into a well-rounded career that includes several seminal comedies and, lately, dramatic producing and writing credits (Shopgirl and the thriller Traitor). However, this is also the same guy who rose to fame telling jokes with a fake arrow piercing his head. So, one should not be surprised when Martin churns out lowbrow moneymakers like Cheaper by the Dozen and Bringing Down the House, especially if these films give him the financial wherewithal to pursue more esteemed interests.

In this context, it is almost ancillary that Pink Panther 2 is utterly awful. Whereas the Peter Sellers films succeeded, in part, by striving to absurd lengths to play its inanity straight, Martin's incarnation strains to act as though it is in on jokes that either do not exist or land like bunker-buster bombs. The result is far more in keeping with Roberto Benigni's woeful Son of the Pink Panther, which was so bad it drove Clouseau creator/director Blake Edwards out of the movie business.

Helmed by the director of One Night at McCool's and Agent Cody Banks, Pink Panther 2 finds Clouseau teaming with a group of international detectives to track down a cat burglar known as "The Tornado," who is stealing historic artifacts around the world, including the priceless Pink Panther diamond. For supposed laughs, there are the sad surfeit of exaggerated accents, unending pratfalls, and annoying reaction shots. An American plays a Frenchman, a Cuban (Andy Garcia) plays an Italian, and Alfred Molina ends up wearing a tutu. And, honestly, I thought gags involving pope lookalikes passed on with John Paul II.

The single-digit chuckles come during Martin and Lily Tomlin's brief scenes together. And, this film puts to rest any debate over whether Aishwarya Rai is the most stunningly beautiful woman in cinema, although in her role as a criminology expert, it's clear she left her acting skills back in Bollywood.

The film flatlines around the time Clouseau's faithful sidekick, Ponton (Jean Reno), washes his partner's hair, during which the two launch into a song-and-dance inspired by the pronunciation of Jojoba shampoo. Those responsible for Pink Panther 2 evidently thought this was hilarious; it, along with the whole film, just made me want to shoot an arrow through my head.

Neil Morris

1 comment:

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