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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > The Pink Panther (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

The Pink Panther (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

 

Stars: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Beyonce Knowles

Director: Shawn Levy

Critic's rating: 6 out of 10

 

Review by Chuck O'Leary

 

Peter Sellers death on July 24, 1980 and not having a hit in the series since 1978's Revenge of the Pink Panther hasn't prevented MGM/UA (purchased by Sony Pictures last year) from trying to keep the Pink Panther series alive (in vain) for over a quarter century.

 

Not learning their lesson from the failure of 1968's Inspector Clouseau starring Alan Arkin as the accident-prone French detective, MGM and series creator Blake Edwards had no luck in their three previous attempts to resurrect the series after Seller's death.First came Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), which took outtakes of Sellers from earlier films and intercut them with interviews of other characters from the series in a desperate, insulting and unsuccessful attempt at a feature film.Trail is easily the nadir of the series. 

 

Released the next year, but filmed at the same time as Trail, was Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) starring Ted Wass as a young, equally clumsy detective named Clifton Sleigh, who bumbled his way through a case trying to find the "missing" Clouseau.It was an improvement over Trail, but grossed even less at the box office.

 

Edwards would try one last time a decade later with Son of the Pink Panther (1993), which cast Roberto Benigni as Jacques Gambrelli, the bumbling half-Italian, half-French son of Inspector Clouseau, but this one did even worse than Curse of.

 

Now comes The Pink Panther, which is being called a remake, but plays more like an amalgam of the previous films than a direct remake.It's also the first time since the Bud Yorkin-directed Inspector Clouseau in 1968 that anyone has attempted a Clouseau film without Edwards.

 

The new Pink Panther casts Steve Martin as Clouseau, and while it's not up to the Sellers ones from the '60s and '70s, like the Sellers-less Curse of and Son of, it definitely has its moments.

 

Inspector Jacques Clouseau is one of those characters so associated with a single actor (like Carroll O'Connor and Archie Bunker) that it's really a no-win situation for anyone to try and fill Sellers' shoes.But give Martin an A for effort.Nobody will ever erase the hilarious memory of Sellers' Clouseau, but Martin finishes ahead of Arkin, who was better than expected as the character, but lacked a funny look and didn't have as much of a knack for physical comedy.

 

Although the face is different and the hair is whiter, Martin's is the same Clouseau we came to know and love through Sellers: An inept, over-confident klutz who thinks he's a genius, butchers the English language and only solves cases through sheer luck.

 

Other welcome returning elements are the late Henry Mancini's signature Pink Panther theme, the animated sequence during the opening credits and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (played to eye-twitching perfection in the previous Panther films by Herbert Lom).Another top-notch comedic actor, Kevin Kline, takes over as Dreyfus minus the famous eye-twitch, but still capturing the pomposity and elitism of Dreyfus, which always makes it funny when he's inadvertently humiliated by Clouseau. 

 

In the new Pink Panther, the coach of France's championship soccer team is killed on the field during a post-game celebration, and has the pink panther diamond stolen from his dead finger.Keen on solving the case, which will surely bring him the long-coveted French Medal of Honor, Dreyfus sets out to find the most incompetent police investigator in France in order to throw off the media.Never does Dreyfus imagine the doggedly determined, disaster-prone buffoon he'll be getting.

 

Clouseau is given a straight-man partner here (Jean Reno) and a pretty secretary with bad vision (Emily Mortimer), but sorely missing is Cato Fong (a character made famous by Burt Kwouk), Clouseau's Asian house servant whose sneak attacks on Clouseau were always a highlight of the earlier films. Granted, Cato didn't appear until the second Panther film, A Shot in the Dark (1964), but since this definitely isnít a straight remake of the first one, his absence is inexcusable.Maybe the filmmakers chickened out because an Asian house servant is suddenly too politically incorrect by the social mores of today?What a drag if that's the reason.

 

Written by Len Blum and Martin, and directed by Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen director, Shawn Levy, the new Pink Panther was originally supposed to open the first weekend of last August, but reportedly got delayed after Martin and company were called back for some reshooting following bad test screenings.Such negative publicity caused everyone to write The Pink Panther off as a loser before it opened.  However, it's really not that bad, and God knows we've seen worse.

 

The film fires joke after joke at the audience, and admittedly more miss than hit, but a handful of the ones that do work are laugh-out-loud funny.Overall, Martin and Kline are good enough replacements to merit another episode in the series.But hopefully next time Cato and master of disguise Professor Auguste Balls will be included too.


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