Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Release Date: February 10th, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Shawn Levy Actors: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Beyonce Knowles, Kristin Chenoweth, Henry Czerny, Roger Rees, Anna Katarina
hy would anyone want to remake “The Pink Panther”? Surely there are other movies from the ‘60s – perhaps those that feature dated special effects, which have now come a long way – that could benefit from a 2006 modernization. The one element that really drove the original film was Peter Sellers’ characterization of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, which can never really be replaced. Here, Steve Martin doesn’t even try to outdo or even emulate that iconic comic performance; instead, he dons the guise of a less realistic, less effective, and far less humorous iteration, seemingly based more closely on Mr. Bean than anything Blake Edwards would have devised. Perhaps this is why the end result is an exercise in mediocrity and pointlessness rather than nostalgia and exceptional comedic timing.
In 2006, the Pink Panther is still a diamond. But Steve Martin is now Jacques Clouseau and Kevin Kline is Chief Inspector Dreyfus. A rather odd though impressive cast rounds out the rest of the supporting characters, including Beyonce Knowles, Kristin Chenoweth, and Emily Mortimer. The story proper involves a famous soccer coach who is murdered – and the even more famous Pink Panther diamond, which is stolen from his body. Dreyfus needs a patsy for the media to follow around while he secretly solves the case, and so he recruits Clouseau, the clumsiest and most incompetent detective on the force, who is tricked into believing that he is actually leading the investigation. Jean Reno is Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (who, in effect, is replacing Kato), a by-the-books officer under orders from Dreyfus to report on Clouseau’s whereabouts. And Knowles is the soccer coach’s ex-girlfriend Xania … and a prime suspect.
Several of the jokes and slapstick routines are pulled off rather amusingly and with enough of a deviation from the source material that it’s easy enough to forget that this is a reimagining of any particular property. But for every mildly entertaining gag that sticks, there’s a painfully unhumorous one to match. One of the highlights of the film (and one of the funnier scenes) is a cameo by Clive Owen as a James Bond-like character, which is a clever nod to Owen’s consideration for the role in the upcoming “Casino Royale” (2006), while also acknowledging the coincidence of Sellers spoofing Bond in the original “Casino Royale” (1967). But despite a handful of smarter comedic interactions, send-ups, or physical nonsense, grimace-inducing sequences crop up with startling frequency.
Though many viewers might scoff at the idea of Martin as Clouseau, he was probably the lesser of several evils, as Mike Myers, Kevin Spacey, and Chris Tucker were all considered for the role at one point. Ultimately, had this not adopted the familiar title and instead opted to become a fresh adventure about a bungling sleuth, it might have had a bit more success; unfortunately, the baggage of the 1963 version’s renown starts this redo off at a significant disadvantage. And despite serving as a revisitation to one of the most beloved of all comedy franchises, this update feels like an exploitation of pop culture, contemporary motifs, and celebrity cameos more than a reboot opportunity. Even diehard Steve Martin fans will likely be disappointed.
– The Massie Twins