"The Pink Panther"
1 hour, 32 minutes
While watching this week’s selection, Steve Martin’s take on the “Pink Panther” movies, one classic Peter Sellers scene kept replaying itself in my head. On the hunt for an evil mastermind, Inspector Clouseau manages to destroy nearly every antique in his suspect’s finely appointed parlor, including a priceless piano. Which movie was that? I can’t remember they were all like that. It’s a riot, and a good jumping-off point for the inevitable comparison of the new “Panther” with the old.
The first thing to remember: This is not Peter Sellers. This is Steve Martin and maybe that’s all the comparison you need. Yes, this is definitely a remake, but to dwell on the fact that it is a step down from its predecessor is to ignore all the fun it does offer.
The film opens with narration from Kevin Kline, very funny in the role of Chief Inspector Dreyfus, recounting a bumbling Clouseau’s days as a small-town constable. It was, in fact, his sheer lack of success as a police officer that brings him to the attention of the chief inspector.
The coach of France’s national soccer team has been murdered, and his fabulous (and incredibly ugly, if you ask me) pink diamond ring has been stolen. Dreyfus, in a bit of slightly ridiculous and overcomplicated plot building, decides that Clouseau would be the perfect foil an imbecile to botch the investigation leaving room for the chief inspector to swoop in, solve the crime, and be awarded the much sought-after Medal of Honor.
Little does Dreyfus realize (I guess he’s never seen a “Pink Panther” movie) that Clouseau’s unique brand of detection, involving missteps, blunders and lots of property damage, nearly always leads him directly to the culprit, whether he realizes it or not.
This movie is actually pretty good, and far, far better than I feared it would be. Steve Martin plays the part to the hilt, and, in a move I applaud, does not attempt to perform a Peter Sellers impression. Sure, there’s the silly accent and the unwarranted and seemingly unshakable confidence of the original, but this character is vintage Martin, drawing on everything from his Lefty in “The Three Amigos” to “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’” Ruprecht.
I realize this scene is in the preview, but his bizarre inability to speak with an American accent, (specifically the word hamburger, “Dambergert! Derberger!”) is hilarious.
Also good is veteran French actor Jean Reno in the role of Kato, Clouseau’s Chinese man-servant. Changes for the 2006 version: he’s not Chinese, and his name’s not Kato. Also, he doesn’t let Clouseau hit him in the back of the head with a practice sword. Can you imagine anyone beating up “The Professional?” It just wouldn’t play. Instead, his character is Ponton, a career cop who is employed to keep tabs on Clouseau for the chief.
There were a few let downs, a few scenes that try to employ more emotion than they deserve, and a few jokes that fall flat, but overall “The Pink Panther” is a fun evening out, and one I would venture the whole family could enjoy. There are a few semi-raunchy jokes, but I kind of doubt young children would even get them.
Overall I think its friendly PG rating is well-deserved. My instinct on the way home was to pick the movie apart. This scene didn’t work; that scene wasn’t as good as the original; Martin plays the part too broad. But then I thought (with the help of my wife, who was getting increasingly irritated at every nitpicky problem I brought up) “Didn’t I just spend nearly an hour and a half laughing almost nonstop?”
Yes I did, and if that’s not enough to recommend a movie, I don’t know what is. Grade: B+
“The Pink Panther” is rated PG for slightly offensive jokes and language.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.
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