February 6, 2009
Review in a Hurry: The second take featuring Steve Martin as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau occasionally-only occasionally-gets a clue, thanks to The Pink Panther 2's strong cast and the intermittent cute line.
The Bigger Picture: Martin once again trades his banjo for the kooky cop cap in his return to the Pink Panther franchise. The inherently 1960s concept-first developed by Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers-remains intact, with equal parts slapstick, high Style and a whole lot of sneak-thieving and lady-ogling. Judged by those standards, Pink Panther 2 does fine, especially given that the audience is obviously Kids.
We open with Clouseau biding his time as a parking-meter cop in paris, as meticulous as he is clueless about his demotion from le Snoop extraordinaire. A new cat burglar named Tornado is padding about, stealing national treasures, and it's only a matter of time before Clouseau is literally plucked from the gutter to save the jour.
He joins what amounts to a dream team both on- and off-screen, including the always-terrific Alfred Molina as a British master of deduction, Jean Reno as an admiring fellow French sleuth, sexpot Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as does-it-really-matter and Andy Garcia as an Italian.
Of course, Clouseau bungles everything he touches, including physical evidence, a private audience with the pope and a fits-and-starts relationship with his pliant secretary, Nicole (Emily Mortimer). The result is the usual chandelier-swinging, costume-swapping, chimney-crashing and at least two scenes where the same restaurant gets lit on fire. And at one point, the legendary Pink Panther diamond has to disappear-again-because otherwise the producers would have to sit around thinking of some new movie title.
But just when the stretched-thin plot seems ready to snap entirely, the cast or the script-cowritten by the very witty Martin-pulls out a zinger that manages to please everybody.
The 180-a Second Opinion: The cast alone may be worth a ticket, if not a rental. A scene between Martin and Molina, in which the two square off on their deduction abilities, has the makings of an instant classique.