There are movies that should never be remade. Like, say, Planet of the Apes. Then there are movies that should never, ever be remade. The Pink Panther remake was doomed from the start. Originally scheduled for a summer 2005 release, the Steve Martin vehicle was pushed back to the gutter month of February of the following year.
The 1964 The Pink Panther isn't a great movie, but it's a good one. It's also funny. Director Blake Edwards' expert timing tweaked super sleuths during the era of To Catch a Thief and James Bond flicks. But the film was driven by Peter Sellers, who made Inspector Jacques Clouseau more than just a bumbling detective with a funny French accent. Sellers redefined physical slapstick comedy with his performance.
Martin kept the accent and some of the pratfalls for his redo. But he lacked Sellers' graceful, almost balletic delivery, which the London-born actor refined over the years in several sequels - some good, some not so good - until his death in 1980. Yes, 2006's Pink Panther was awful, but The Pink Panther 2 is even worse.
This time around, a thief called the Tornado is swiping famous ancient artifacts. A "Dream Team" of detectives - Andy Garcia as an Italian lothario, Alfred Molina as a blustery Brit and Yuki Matsuzaki as a Japanese tech whiz - from around the globe is called in to investigate. They're accompanied by a Tornado expert, played by Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai. Meanwhile, Clouseau is handing out parking tickets, when his shocked superior (John Cleese, replacing the first film's Kevin Kline, who wisely bowed out of this mess) informs him that he'll represent France in the all-star detective team. After the Pink Panther jewel is snatched, Clouseau gets serious about the investigation.
There isn't much plot here, just a series of sight gags (involving wine bottles, a flamenco troupe and the pope) mixed with Clouseau's unintelligible French. The whole thing rides that thin line between childish and stupid.
Which raises the question: Who is The Pink Panther 2 made for? The first one was a hit with kids, but a subplot here in which Clouseau goes through sensitivity training to curb his sexist and racist remarks will likely go over their heads. It's telling that the movie's funniest scenes are glimpsed through security cameras, as Clouseau futilely attempts to sneak around a mansion. The old-school jokes pay passing tribute to Sellers, but from a fuzzy and barely perceptible distance.
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