93 Min | Adventure – Comedy – Crime | March 2006
IMDB Rating: 5.5
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno
The Pink Panther Review: Peter Sellers was Peter Sellers. Steve Martin is Steve Martin. In the same way, Steve Martin’s Inspector Jacques Clouseau is a totally new creation, as uniquely Martin’s as the original was uniquely Sellers’. The essential details are the same the ridiculous accent, the unique level of incompetence, the tendency to karate-chop the air on reflex. But instead of trying to emulate Sellers, Martin fills out the character with his unique brand of goofiness. The Pink Panther starts out with narration by Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom’s character in the older films). The narration contains a few groan-worthy clichés but only exists long enough to set up the plot. Kevin Kline sometimes struggles to keep his French accent straight, but he makes up for it later in the movie with his willingness to be the butt of several gags.
The Pink Panther then moves to one of its high-points, the credits. An animated version of Steve Martin’s Clouseau chases after the famous Pink Panther to a traditional rendition of Henry Mancini’s theme. The sequence is not only the cartoon cat’s funniest appearance so far, but it’s a treat for fans of the original films willing to indulge. Several moments pay tribute to the animated sequences of the Peter Sellers films, including “A Shot in the Dark.” Then the real movie begins. Steve Martin shines as Inspector Clouseau, nailing the ridiculous accent perfectly. It even varies slightly from Sellers’. The plot is that of a conventional murder mystery, a nice change from the muddled plots of the previous movies. It’s even possible for the viewer to spot the clues. Steve Martin’s Clouseau has been upgraded from mere idiot to idiot savant. He’s accident prone, absent minded, and slow on the uptake, but when he’s got time to sit down and think it’s not hard to believe he’s capable of solving the case.
Beyonce’s character, while important to the plot, actually gets only a small amount of screen time. Her role requires only average acting talent. She may not be the most competent actress, but she is very competent when it comes to giving the camera absolutely smoldering stares. Emily Mortimer as Dreyfus’ scatterbrained secretary. She and Martin have great chemistry, as do Martin and sidekick Jean Reno. There’s a real warmth in the relationship between Clouseau and Reno’s character. The tired routines that were recycled so many times in the original films are thankfully gone, though there are several subtle nods to those familiar with the older films. While, sadly, The Pink Panther never once reaches the level of hilarity the originals did, the laughs are steady, the story flows nicely, and the characters are extremely likable. The Pink Panther may or may not appeal to fans of the original movies, but fans of Martin, especially the young ones acquainted with him from the “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies, will love it.