Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Pink Panther: About As Bad As You're Already Heard (Or Suspect)

The Good: There are moments that are actually funny
The Bad: A lot of slapstick, No great performances, Characters are blah, Resolution
The Basics: Steve Martin's remake of The Pink Panther is unremarkable, but has a few funny moments.

I don't recall what movie I was out watching when I saw the preview for The Pink Panther, but it was one that the preview seemed incongruent with. The person I was with turned to me and said, "If they were going to remake it, Steve Martin is an excellent choice." I had to agree. Then I promptly forgot about it. The Pink Panther was released in theaters, declared one of the worst movies of 2006 and was largely forgotten by me. Then I saw it, which I suppose took some forethought, though it did not feel like it. The bottomline - if you want it up front - is it's about as bad as you might think, but better than you've probably heard.

The ambitious inspector Dreyfus is offered the chance of a lifetime to be awarded the Medal of Honor when a famous soccer coach is killed in front of a stadium of witnesses. Dreyfus decides that the best way he can do this is by having another inspector and the media on the case while he works the case from behind the scenes, allowing for the "official" investigation which he will later discard with his "genius" detective abilities. Dreyfus puts the bumbling incompetent Jacques Clouseau on the case. Almost immediately, Clouseau is bumbling toward the truth with his very capable sidekick Ponton in tow.

While Dreyfus investigates the Chinese - the poison that kills the coach was of Chinese origin - Clouseau investigates the coach's lover, Xania, the star soccer player, the people who did not like the coach and the people who he owed money to. Amidst the murder investigation is the apparent theft of a giant jewel called the Pink Panther diamond, which Clouseau is less diligently searching for.

The Pink Panther is largely a slapstick film, so if you like slapstick, this is probably great. I'm not a fan of slapstick, so watching The Pink Panther was a draining experience for me. It was not terribly clever or funny with the props flying, people falling, ridiculous gags that turned moments into supposed laughter. I generally don't find that funny and this was no exception.

Ironically, the moments when the movie was funniest was when the slapstick was abandoned for such things as wordplay. Clouseau gets in trouble in an airport in the United States and the spinning newspaper montage comes into play with various pictures and headlines. This is funny for the way the publications are portrayed, with the least reputable having the most dumbed-down headline. In short, when the movie wants to be clever, it can be. In fact, unlike some true cinematic atrocities, like The Out-of-Towners, with Steve Martin, The Pink Panther succeeded at moments at making me laugh. But the moments where that was true all had to do with wordplay or concepts that would go above the head of the usual patron of a PG movie. I suppose I'm out of touch with what makes something PG as opposed to PG-13.

Anyway, the moment that actually made me laugh - there were a few where I smiled - involved Clouseau, who has been fawning over Xania the entire movie, being warned that her invitation to her room might be a trap, to which Clouseau responds, "who cares?!" Ahh . . . the cheap laugh of a man willing to die at the hands of a beautiful woman.

But that's pretty much it. Otherwise, The Pink Panther is pretty solidly a dud. None of the characters have a particular amount of character. This is a murder mystery where all the roles are obviously filled. You have the inspector, the ambitious police chief, the girlfriend having problems with her lover, the angry celebrity, the ambitious worker, the business partner who is tired of the failing antics of the other partner. It's all very standard after a fashion. There's even Added Romantic Subplot #12 thrown in to make the movie even more of a cliche.

The movie focuses on Clouseau and Dreyfus, but there are problematic aspects there. Clouseau only proves his worth through unlikely exposition at the very end of the movie. Dreyfus, who sets up the movie, is abandoned for a cheap gag in the flick's last frames. It's ridiculous; Dreyfus sets up the movie. He is telling a story. Yet he does not finish the story. It's disconcerting and sloppy.

The big three performances are all trumped by the straightman. Kevin Kline plays Dreyfus, Beyonce Knowles plays Xania, and Steve Martin portrays Clouseau. None of them shine. Martin and Kline are not playing roles we have not seen them in before. Martin's ability to do schtick wears thin and Kline's arrogance becomes grating. Knowles reminds the viewer that if a musical artist is going to act they ought to either have an excellent role in mind or otherwise have a talent for acting to engage. Were I an actor, Knowles would inspire the reaction I have to people who treat writing like something anyone in the world can do.

The only performance worth watching is from actor Jean Reno. Reno plays Ponton, the straightman to Clouseau's clumsy detective and he does it quite well. Reno is serious and unflinching, playing the role perfectly. So, even though the character is not much, Reno does it well.

Is it worth watching The Pink Panther? No. But if you have kids who like slapstick and fart jokes, it might keep them busy for an hour and a half.

For other works Shawn Levy was involved in, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Date Night
The Pink Panther 2


For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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