Comedic legend Steve Martin stars as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in this entertaining update of the Pink Panther film series. Martin also co-wrote the solid screenplay with Len Bum who co-wrote the story with Michael Saltzman (TV’s Murphy Brown).
If you’re keeping track, this film will be the 10th Pink Panther film series. Clouseau was previously played by Alan Arkin, Roger Moore and, mostly notably, Peter Sellars. Martin portrays Clouseau again as an idiot who thinks he’s brilliant.
Martin performs some amazing comedy while connecting emotionally with the audience. He doesn’t always have the right words, but he does know when to take advantage of his reputation even giving the audience little hints that he does take his work seriously.
Just when you think Clouseau doesn’t have a clue, he surprises you and builds the foundation for a great ending. Remakes and comedies are hard enough separately, but Martin, the cast and crew succeed at both.
An opening narration and montage describing Clouseau’s background establishes his character well. Clouseau’s bumbling reputation prompts Chief Inspector Dreyfus, played by Kevin Kline, to use him as a pawn in the high-profile Pink Panther diamond theft at a soccer match between France and China. Dreyfus assembles his own police team while he loathes Clouseau’s apparent incompetence.
Clouseau’s partner, Ponton, played by popular French actor Jean Reno (French Kiss, The Professional) follows a proud family tradition of nine generations of policemen. Veteran British actress Emily Mortimer (The Kid, Match Point) shows great comedic talent as Nicole, Clouseau’s assistant. Both of these great supporting characters have sincere intentions as they work to solve the crime while drawing emotion and admiration to Clouseau.
Other supporting roles include Henry Czerny (Mission Impossible) as Yuri, the French soccer team’s trainer; Beyonce Knowles as Xania, a role not too far from her own profession; Kristin Chenoweth (TV’s The West Wing) as Cherie, the French soccer team’s assistant and Jason Statham (The Transporter, The Italian Job) who plays a prominent role without saying a word.
Director Shawn Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen, Big Fat Liar) handles the comedy well while utilizing some great international settings that included France (of course), Canada and the Czech Republic. Levy even gets a shot of Martin driving with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
The opening animated credits coupled with Henry Mancini’s memorable musical theme set the stage for fun. Filmmakers don’t bother with logistical shots like shots of airplanes on their return flight (viewers of the previous films won’t be surprised) and opt to keep the comedy rolling. Some similarities from the previous films still exist in variations (e.g. constant tests of “vigilance”), but there’s plenty of original comedy, character traits and plot points.
A great cameo performance in a casino and modern elements like the Internet, Viagra and sexual harassment in an office setting create some great laughs. Even the hilarious hotel scene shown in previews still draws laughs because of the solid build up.
A running pronunciation gag works well, but then runs a little too long in an airport sequence. Also the sound could’ve been improved in a sequence involving a car door and a cyclist.
After a running time of approximately 95 minutes, the cast and crew successfully progress Clouseau’s character with laughs and some heart. The Pink Panther provides great entertainment and succeeds with a variety of comedy ranging from crude to slapstick to elaborate.
This film works well enough to overcome any dissenting opinions as I witnessed when walking out of the theater. “That one joke was kinda lame,” says one viewer while his friend says, “Maybe, but you did laugh.” Recommended and rated PG for sexual references (little ones won’t understand them, but teenagers will), crude humor and language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler