Rated: PG Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 9, 2009 Released by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. and Columbia TriStar
Steve Martin is a little long in the tooth, but is game to continue on the malapropisms and acrobatic pratfalls as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in Pink Panther 2 which still doesn't do justice to what Blake Edwards gave to the silly caper picture over four decades ago.
In Harald Zwart's stumbling, aimless film geared towards young ones (or those predisposed to childish inhibitions), Clouseau, relegated to cop on the street duties, is assigned to an international dream-team of detectives out to get the mysterioius globe-trotting thief known as The Tornado.
It seems that, in the screenplay co-written by Martin, that priceless artifacts like the Shroud of Turin have been absconded. When his bespectacled secretary Nicole (Emily Mortimer of Transsiberian) is sad that Jacques has to travel far away, he's brought back close to home as the priceless Pink Panther diamond suddenly disappears.
Instead of Kevin Kline, John Cleese appears as the frustrated Chief Inspector Dreyfus who literally turns in a headbanger of a performance, victimized in part by a new security system in his office, as well as the shenanigans of Clouseau. Clouseau's latest investigation also includes Alfred Molina and Andy Garcia as two of his new colleagues, Pepperidge and Vicenzi, and the very alluring Aishwarya Rai (a Bollywood star) as Sonia who helps with leads onto the deviously clever Tornado. Lily Tomlin, who appeared with Martin, back in his more gloriously comedic days in All of Me is the etiquette instructor Mrs. Berenger. Jean Reno (The Professional, Ronin) returns as Clouseau's drowsy sidekick Ponton, who gets the boot from his wife and has his kids with him.
The more "amusing" scenes include one with Jeremy Irons where the evidence leads to early on, and at the Vatican as the Pope loses his ring and Clouseau gets to fashion his wardrobe.
Like its 2006 predecessor, this cheap cinematic imitation that may make older viewers long for Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom goes for straightforward mystery and verbal and visual gags. Kids will enjoy the puns and schtick which spins off of the old movies; it's obvious that Martin can't do what Sellers did for the character in part because he just doesn't have the innocence and the daftness. So, the prissy arrogance and bumbling ineptitude only go so far, even as the storyline sets up romantic tension that has him disguised in a way that may recall his turn in Three Amigos.
Pink Panther 2 is nimble when it comes to its plot turns and tiding up like a game of Clue, but it's faintly obvious when one waits for and gets to see Pepperidge in a pink tutu with a handbag. There's little delirious, genuine wit in this small-minded escapade with the Smart car, an incendiary Italian bistro, and the talent of issuing parking tickets. But, without any satirical or tonal spriness to it, at least the old chestnut of the cartoon opening and closing with the Pink Panther (and in the beginning with Clouseau) and Henry Mancini's nifty theme are still intact.
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