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    The Pink Panther 2

    Thu, 05 Feb 2009 14:39:36

    Movie Reviews: The Pink Panther 2

    Steve Martin's debut foray as Inspector Clouseau in 2006's The Pink Panther was not, how you say, zee encore-demanding tour de force.

    In fact, the movie mostly was trés awful―and not just to outraged Peter Sellers-worshipping fans of the original series. The sitcom-level humor was on a par with Martin's similarly unfunny family flick Cheaper by the Dozen, which was helmed by the same director (Shawn Levy). Also, it was hard not to think that Jean Reno, who played Clouseau's partner Ponton, would have made a better Clouseau than Martin did. Martin came off as more winkingly broad than convincingly clueless, seeming to be playing his role for the entertainment of small, easily amused children. Which means that proclaiming The Pink Panther 2 better than its predecessor may sound like faint praise, but at least the series is heading in the right direction.

    Once again, the priceless Pink Panther diamond has been stolen. The mysterious thief's previous heists include the shroud of Turin, the Magna Carta, and the Imperial Sword of Japan. Clouseau joins an international team of detectives (Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Yuki Matsuzaki, and "Queen of Bollywood" Indian actress Aishwarya Rai), who basically regard Clouseau as a small-minded nitwit.

    Reno returns as the guilelessly deadpan Ponton, whose marriage problems send him and his two young sons to move in with Clouseau. Martin's scenes with the mayhem-making, martial-arts-mad kids fall flat, but his distractedly dismissive relationship with the unshakably faithful Reno has its moments.

    The most welcome returning player is Emily Mortimer as Clouseau's sweetly reserved but romantically yearning assistant Nicole. The exotically beautiful Rai is her rival for Clouseau's affections, but Mortimer is so adorable―especially with a French accent―that it's really no contest.

    Some notable personnel changes in 2: Levy is out and Harald Zwart is in as director, two new screenwriters have replaced the two who wrote the first movie with Martin, and Monty Python's John Cleese takes over from Kevin Kline as Clouseau's boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

    Zwart's staging of a wine bottle-juggling restaurant disaster scene is well done, as is a later bit following the less-than-stealthy Clouseau's movements on mansion security cameras. The screenplay, credited to Martin and newcomers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is genially dumb for the most part―which is a marked improvement over "tiresomely stupid." Occasional flashes of cleverness include scenes such as Clouseau predicting that disaster will ensue if he leaves the country, and being proven correct as soon as he steps over an improbable "you are now leaving France" line on the airport floor.

    While Kline was as adequate a Dreyfus as the first movie's weak script allowed, Cleese is perfect as the only member of the French police who seems aware that Clouseau is more idiot than savant. A scene in which the utterly frustrated chief inspector excuses himself so he literally can bang his head on the wall, and then on a vanity counter, is hilarious.

    The Pink Panther 2 is no jewel, but it does have a few funny facets.

    ―James Dawson

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