Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Pink Panther

THE PINK PANTHER (Shawn Levy, 2006)

Steve Martin follows in Peter Sellers’ bumbling footsteps as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in THE PINK PANTHER. Clouseau is handpicked to investigate the murder of a French soccer coach and the theft of the Pink Panther diamond. Being placed on such an important case would seem to indicate that he is the most qualified person for the job. Not so. Instead, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) selects the incompetent gendarme with the expectation that Clouseau’s failure will permit him to solve the case and finally earn him the Medal of Honor. Dreyfus assigns police detective Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno) to keep tabs on Clouseau and his investigation of the soccer team and the coach’s pop singer girlfriend Xania (Beyoncé Knowles).

Former wild and crazy guy Martin is at best mildly goofy in THE PINK PANTHER, although anything’s better than his tepid family man roles of recent years. His Clouseau isn’t all that funny because he’s trying too hard in a part that requires effortless stupidity. For example, Martin overdoes the intentionally tortured French accent like his mouth is full of peanut butter.

At least Martin's way of talking is supposed to be ridiculous. Kline’s accent wobbles between British and French, which is fitting because he doesn’t grasp his role either. Beyoncé couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. As Clouseau’s secretary Nicole, Emily Mortimer comes out unscathed. (Anyway, who’d begrudge her a decent check for a studio movie after all the wonderful work she’s done in independent films?) Only Reno hits the right notes in this silly comedy. He takes part in the film’s best gag: having Clouseau and Ponton dressed head to toe in camouflage outfits with one side patterned after a room’s curtains and the other side styled like a marble wall. THE PINK PANTHER wants to be madcap, but the strain in the effort is too apparent.

Grade: C-

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