February 16, 2006

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FILM: The Pink Panther (PG)
by Amy Diaz

Steve Martin gleefully pisses away any respect he gained from Shopgirl with the wholly unnecessary remake of The Pink Panther.

I lend my voice to the heavenly chorus of “whys” uttered by all who have seen, heard about or had some passing knowledge of this movie. I mean, it’s not like Steve Martin was remaking a Jerry Lewis or Robin Williams comedy (not that I’d advise that either, though for different reasons). We’re talking Peter Sellers, we’re talking some of the best slapstick around by one of the most chameleon-like comic actors ever. It was silly good fun the first time around. Why, oh, why, oh, why redo it with half the cleverness and twice the cheese? (What kind of cheese? The kind that comes from having Beyonce prance around for no reason and speak, maybe, eight lines during the entirety of her screen time. Or the cheese that requires every scene to end with a non sequitur pratfall. Or the cheese that results from having Kevin Kline in a movie, any movie for any reason.)

I have a hard time explaining this movie as though anyone might want to see it but, after all, it did make more than $21 million in its opening weekend (when it came in number one in box office sales) so I guess tickets are sold, popcorn is consumed, so let’s push off.

Inspector Clouseau (Martin) is a bumbling French police officer who is picked by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) to investigate the murder of a football (soccer) coach and the theft of his ring, which contained the fist-sized Pink Panther diamond. Dreyfus doesn’t actually believe Clouseau is going to solve the case; Dreyfus hopes the bumbling inspector will give Dreyfus time to actually solve the crime and win the medal of honor. Xania (Beyonce Knowles) is the pop superstar who was dating the coach at the time, which throws the thoroughly twitterpated Clouseau into her path.

Between the setup of this story and the actual end of the movie is some hour and 10 to 20 minutes of pure slapstick. Well, not “pure” slapstick. More like hand-me-down, faded, ill-fitting slapstick. From the many times that some character becomes entangled in curtains to the constant verbal slapstick of Clouseau’s exaggerated French accent, the movie is a non-stop barrage of PG-Rated Funny. It’s like having somebody read to you at high speed from a joke book. And eventually the one about the duck who goes into the doctor’s office and the one about the minister and the rabbi at the bar and the punchline “good yontiff, pontiff” all blend together into a murky gray blob of forced hilarity.

Seriously, Steve Martin, you have a column in the New Yorker, you write relatively well-respected books. Calm down. Take off the arrow-headband, put down the rubber chicken and stop starring in things that movie posters will tout as “wacky.” D

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