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Our review of The Pink Panther 2 (Blu-Ray), published July 6th, 2009, is also available.
"Now let me bring you up to speed. We know nothing. You are now up to speed."—Inspector Jacques Clouseau
Peter Sellers kept his career alive, even posthumously, as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling detective he created for 1963's The Pink Panther. Clips, outtakes, and new actors kept the movie series going for a while, but it faded into obscurity after Sellers' 1980 death. In 2006, Steve Martin took on the role of Clouseau. He did well enough to rate a sequel. You are now up to speed.
"I'm afraid, sir, that Clouseau is currently occupied."
"I've assigned him to a mission so important for our country that I fear for our national security if he was taken off it."
Dreyfuss (John Cleese, Fawlty Towers) stuck the disaster-prone Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin, The Jerk) on traffic duty, where he's measuring cars' distance from the curb so he can give out tickets—if drivers will let him. However, the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, and the Imperial Sword of Japan have been taken by storm—by the Tornado, to be more precise. What's worse, the Pink Panther diamond disappears the moment Clouseau steps off French soil at the airport. Higher-ups want Clouseau, a national hero, to join a "dream team" of international detectives. With the exceptions of a beautiful writer (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Bride and Prejudice) and his lovestruck assistant Nicole (Emily Mortimer, Match Point), the Dream Team considers Clouseau a nightmare, especially when he disagrees with their solution to the mystery. Worse yet, he's got a rival for Nicole's love in suave Vincenzo (Andy Garcia, The Untouchables).
In "Drama is Easy…Comedy is Dangerous," producer Robert Simonds compares the way Steve Martin is continuing the character of Inspector Clouseau to the ever-evolving faces of James Bond. I wouldn't go that far, but Martin manages to keep the basic essence of Peter Sellers' classic character who, while capable as a detective, is singleminded and oblivious to disastrous extent. You know, a sharp detective who can actually get really into traffic detail. Without lapsing into neurosis, Martin puts enough emotion into the character to make the ending (in which Clouseau saves the day) feel triumphant and silly enough to make that feeling a surprise.
While The Pink Panther 2 has plenty of nods to the classic movie series in its linguistic mangling and slapstick, the big difference is that this is a mild-mannered affair. I can't even picture this Clouseau turning up in a nudist colony, as Sellers' version did in A Shot in the Dark. Even the surprise swordfights in the house have a kinder, gentler nature, since this version makes it horseplay with colleague Ponton's rowdy kids. Cleese's Dreyfuss bangs his head against a wall in frustration at just hearing Clouseau's name, but isn't the maniacal opponent Herbert Lom was in the original series. There are a few double-entendres, but less so than average nowadays.
Enough scenes or jokes made me laugh out loud—when Martin and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) battle through those accurate longshot deductions from trivial clues that great detectives are known for, or when Martin juggles falling wine bottles with eventual catastrophic result in a fancy restaurant—to make it a worthwhile 92 minutes. Supporting players, including Lily Tomlin as a political correctness advisor, are generally good, although most get only one or two scenes to really show their stuff.
The extras include two interesting features, "Drama is Easy…But Comedy is Dangerous" and "A Dream Team Like No Other," that provide the usual trivia (Steve Martin actually had a dialect coach to help him mangle French correctly!) while leaving you wanting more. A gag reel has some good moments, as it shows that Martin's stunts weren't as effortless as they looked, along with too many actors breaking up laughing on the set.
Since it's a screener disc, I can't say anything definitive about your viewing experience on technical level, but I found the disc satisfactory. I liked the retro score that pays ample homage to Henry Mancini's original theme.
The Pink Panther 2 is a nice, likeable movie. That could be a liability if you remember the likes of Herbert Lom as the crazy Dreyfuss in the original. Even with frequent nods to the original and appearances by the cartoon Pink Panther, I wouldn't look for nostalgia here; but considering it on its own, you should leave with a good feeling. With the relative scarcity of extras, I'd guess MGM is expecting mostly rentals on this one, but it's worth picking up if you see a good price.
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