Sunday, January 22, 2012

Surprisingly Entertaining, The Pink Panther 2Is Better Than Steve Martin's First Outing As Inspector Clouseau!

The Good: Funny, Moments of performance
The Bad: Predictable plot and character arcs.
The Basics: Actually funny and charming, The Pink Panther 2 reminds viewers that Steve Martin is a comic genius!

If I do not enjoy the first film in a series, I will almost never bother with a sequel. This, I suppose, is probably quite normal, but it bears repeating. So, when I had a chance to take in a screening of the sequel to the loathsome remake of The Pink Panther with Steve Martin, I was somewhat hesitant. However, my fiance was excited about the film, so it seemed like a great way for us to spend some time together. I also promised to never curve reviews just because my partner liked something.

That said, I enjoyed The Pink Panther 2, even more than Steve Martin's first outing as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Every now and then, I go into a comedy I prejudge as lame and I come out completely and pleasantly surprised. The last time that happened was when I took in Get Smart (reviewed here!) and was shocked by how it actually had a motif. The Pink Panther 2 is not as smart or surprising - it is plagued by a terribly predictable plot, for example - but it is solidly funny and it is worth seeing. Indeed, when this comes out on DVD, it is a solid recommend for seeing, even if not the buy. That said, my fiancé and I laughed . . . a lot and with good reason. The Pink Panther 2 is quite funny.

When priceless artifacts like the Shroud Of Turin, the Magna Carta and the Imperial sword, French Inspector Jacques Clouseau is called in to lead a dream team of investigators from around the world. The perpetrator of the crimes appears to be a master criminal called The Tornado, who stopped working ten years prior. Determined to protect the Pink Panther diamond, which authorities worry might be the next targeted item, Clouseau joins the dream team and no sooner does he leave French soil than the Pink Panther diamond is stolen.

Thus, the dream team of Vicenzo, Pepperidge, Kenji and Sonia (an expert in The Tornado's escapades) descends upon France, where they begin investigating the Pink Panther's theft. Aided by Ponton, Clouseau - who has been on parking ticket detail for over a year prior - witlessly begins investigating, despite the heavy intellectual competition from the other members of the team. Plagued by a love for his assistant, Nicole, that he is unable to express and Vincenzo's advanced upon her, Clouseau sneaks, burns and stumbles his way onto the trail of the Tornado, whom he is not even certain is the actual thief!

The Pink Panther 2 is a mystery comedy and unfortunately, anyone who has seen any amount of mysteries will be unsurprised by who the thief is. In fact, in treating the film like a mystery, I overthought and my first guess - Ponton's wife of ten years, the first character to have a mention to "ten years" outside the Tornado - was wrong. However, once it became clear that Ponton's wife was a mostly off-screen character, the solution to the mystery is actually quite obvious and, in fact, painfully so. In fact, the guilty party might as well enter the film with a big sign that reads "Red Herring, I didn't do it! Wink! Wink!"

But, of course, the Pink Panther series is not about great crime fighting or intelligent detective work, it is essentially about a detective who bumbles his way into the right answers. The point is to be funny; this is a slapstick movie and as that it works wonderfully. I am not generally inclined toward slapstick and I found myself laughing a lot at The Pink Panther 2. But the thing is, a lot of the humor I found myself laughing at was not the slapstick humor, it was the verbal humor. So, for example, my fiance and I were the only ones to laugh at the hilarious line when Clouseau hands Chief Inspector Dreyfus (played by John Cleese) a report on sixteen months of parking tickets, Dreyfus responds, "I shall waste no time in reading this." Hilarious. And there are a number of verbal gags like that, like Nicole and Clouseau talking about remembering to forget the night of passion they almost had.

Even the jokes that are telegraphed or are obvious setups - like Dreyfus telling Clouseau to deny that Dreyfus had assigned him to parking ticket detail - still pay off in funny ways and it works. The Pink Panther 2 has a lot of physical comedy, from Clouseau being dragged by a car in the earliest sequences to him snooping around the Tornado's fence's estate. And in this regard, Steve Martin is an obvious and wonderful choice for Clouseau who lives up to the comedic reputation and potential that he fell too far short of in the first film.

The Pink Panther 2 has a decent cast that is used quite well. In addition to Steve Martin, the film is populated by John Cleese and Lily Tomlin, as the political correctness officer who tries to train Clouseau to be more respectful to coworkers and different ethnicities in some of the film's funniest verbal moments. Cleese, Tomlin and Martin are all expected to be funny because of their long histories in comedy and they each live up to their potential in that regard. Conversely, acting heavyweights Jeremy Irons, Andy Garcia and Alfred Molina all appear in The Pink Panther 2. While Irons is not given anything especially comedic to work with, Garcia either falls flat with much of his humor or is unable to present the comedy he is given in a funny way. Molina adapts well to humor, actually poking fun at some of the dignity he comes at so many of his serious roles with by playing an arrogant Brit.

Jean Reno makes a great straightman to Martin's Clouseau as Ponton. Similarly, Emily Mortimer makes for a good romantic foil to Martin's Clouseau and that works for the film perfectly. Mortimer plays Nicole as plain and shy in a way that she seems quite credible at. This makes Martin's performance as the often over-the-top Clouseau resonate with a reality that makes the viewer feel like the world of The Pink Panther is filled with a realistically diverse population.

Martin, for his part, reminds the viewer that with decent material - and he co-wrote The Pink Panther 2 - he is able to navigate physical and verbal comedy like the seasoned pro he is. Truth be told, though, the Clouseau character is mostly a one-joke character. He is the hapless fool who stumbles into good fortune and the clues needed to succeed. The rest of the Dream Team are similarly monolithic, so it is not like The Pink Panther 2 is a great work of character development or any particular genius in that regard.

But it is fun and it is funny. My partner lauds it as one of the funniest movies ever and I am loathe to contradict my fiance. The Pink Panther 2 is fun, funny and it is good for consistent laughs. But it is not an amazing film. Going into it with that expectation would be ridiculous. Without it, though, it is enough fun to recommend and enjoy. Thoroughly.

For other comedy sequels, please visit my reviews of:
The Whole Ten Yards
Shrek Forever After
Scary Movie 4


For other movie reviews, please be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an updated listing of all the movies I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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