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Pink Panther, The (2006)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/10/06 00:00:11

"Can it possibly be worse than you think it might be? Yes. Yes it can."
1 stars (Sucks)

And now, finally, at long, long, long last, after months of studio delay, we come to the all-new, all-different remake/retooling/remaining of “The Pink Panther.” Or as I have taken to calling it, “Why, Steve Martin, Why? Why? Why? Oh, For The Love Of God, Why?”

The only remote hope one could have for this new rendition of Inspector Clouseau is in the form of Martin, who stars as Peter Sellers’ most famous movie character - and who co-wrote this new film version, alongside Len Blum, who previously helped pen “Stripes,” “Meatballs,” and “Private Parts.” Sounds good. But… Blum also penned “Feds” and “Beethoven’s 2nd.” And the film is directed by Shawn Levy, the dolt behind “Cheaper By the Dozen” and “Just Married.” So yeah. It looks like this is one of Martin’s bill-paying movies, and the fact that he had such a heavy hand in its making does not mean it’s among the smarter work for which he is best loved.

As it turns out, Martin’s all wrong for the part. Clouseau worked because Sellers was such a master of physical comedy, able to sell the broad and the subtle with equal ease. Martin, meanwhile, is a comic who works best with words and wit, and whose slapstick abilities are far lacking. This is not to say Sellers had no wit - far from it - and this is also not to say that Martin cannot pull off visual humor - again, far from it - but for what the Clouseau character demands from a performer, Martin is simply the wrong man for the job.

And so all of Martin’s pratfalls, painful reactions, and frenzied mannerisms (sloppily honed from years of work on disposable comedies like “Bringing Down the House”) all feel way too forced, a comedy struggling against all odds to get a giggle, and having to work extra hard to get even those the cheapest, laziest of laughs to work. And even then, it fails miserably. This is a movie that stops dead in its tracks for a Viagra joke, that stops again later for a completely irrelevant sequence in which the notoriously thick-accented inspector visits a dialect coach, that finds it necessary to telegraph each and every punchline so that only the thickest of audience members would not see the gag coming. (Why yes, he is in fact going to believe he’s watching them in a sexual position when in fact they are not. Don’t believe me? Oh, just keep watching. Three, two, one… there. You see? He mistook their clumsy antics as being the middle of a sexual act. What’s that? You really didn’t see that coming at all? Not even once? Oh. Come again? Oh, I see. Well, that’s easy to explain. The pictures on the screen are being projected from a booth behind us at a rate of 24 frames per second, which provides the illusion of movement. It’s what we have come to call a “motion picture.” Hmm? Oh, yes. Well, surprising situations and commentary on the human condition can sometimes be found in something we like to call “comedy,” in which many “jokes” are performed. I’m surprised to see that you’ve never encountered any of these notions before, although that does go a long way to explain why you’re actually liking this movie.)

It’s also a movie that decides that we should have sympathy for the clumsy inspector, so we get the obligatory scene in which he’s thrown off the case, disgraced and downtrodden, cue Christophe Beck’s hackwork of a musical score, because heaven forbid Shawn Levy make a movie without unbearably pointless sentiment thrown in at the last minute.

Oh, and he gets to actually solve the case using his own smarts, because apparently the makers of this film do not understand how a Pink Panther movie is supposed to work.

Oh, and Beyoncé Knowles is in it, because we need to have a very long musical interlude to help sell the soundtrack, featuring songs inspired by Beyoncé’s desire to not have songs this lame actually show up on one of her own albums. (And in case you’re wondering: no, she has yet to improve from the level of novelty casting. She’s as blank and one-note as she was “Fighting Temptations” and “Goldmember.” But at least she’s not Jessica Simpson.)

If the sight of watching Steve Martin, one of our greatest entertainers, completely abandon all chances of future respect isn’t enough to make you queasy, then perhaps you should turn your eye to Kevin Kline, who once played Hamlet on stage, who won an Academy Award for his impeccable comedic work in “A Fish Called Wanda,” and who can now be seen here putting a leaky fountain pen in his shirt pocket. This, by the way, is a gag that is stretched out for minutes, and if you think there’s no possible way that anyone can actually stretch a leaky-fountain-pen-makes-shirt-messy joke for that long, well, dear reader, you are absolutely correct.

Rounding out the pain, we also get Jean Reno, humiliating himself as Clouseau’s sidekick (how I pity the Frenchman - especially one as so very cool as Jean Reno - who has to put up with the film’s oh-aren’t-foreign-accents-hilarious schtick), and Clive Owen, who appears in an extended cameo as - ha ha, get this fresh angle! - “Agent 006” (despite Owen’s best efforts, the entire routine winds up even more unbearable than you’d expect).

I smiled once during this entire movie - not a laugh, not even a snicker, but a light smile. It was a response to a quick, verbal joke late in the film that actually let Martin play off his talents. And then it was gone, vanished as quickly as any viewer’s hopes that the cast could possibly rescue such a knuckleheaded effort. Martin, Blum, and Levy seem to have learned nothing from “Inspector Clouseau,” “The Curse of the Pink Panther,” and/or “The Son of the Pink Panther,” the previous three attempts to make a Clouseau film without Sellers. (Granted, Martin is better than Ted Wass, but then, who isn’t?) Like those films, this new “Pink Panther” is agonizingly unwatchable, one disastrous comic failure after another. It’s so horrible, I’m surprised Eugene Levy didn’t show up to say “fo shizzle.”

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