February 4, 2006

‘Pink Panther’ painfully unfunny

By Michael Rechtshaffen

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The last time we saw
Inspector Clouseau, the once-illustrious Pink Panther franchise
had fallen on hard times with actor (now TV director) Ted Wass
stuck in the thankless role of attempting to fill the late
Peter Sellers' formidable footwear in 1983's "Curse of the Pink

That title would have been equally apropos of the current
incarnation, simply titled "The Pink Panther," which finally
arrives after being bounced around the release schedule
numerous times, in part because of Sony's purchase of MGM/UA.

Even with the inspired choice of Steve Martin in the
Clouseau role, this "Panther" picture is more bumbling and
fumbling than the blissfully oblivious, accident-prone

The painfully unfunny results -- a couple of exceptions,
like the "hamburger" bit, have already begun to lose their
comic luster thanks to all the advance advertising -- likely
won't have audiences tickled pink.

Even with the added enticement of the lovely Beyonce
Knowles current No. 1 hit "Check on It" has been remixed with a
little Mancini, there's a stale, warmed-over feel to the entire
production that ultimately will keep ticket sales in check.

There's slapstick and then there's the finely honed variety
of physical comedy introduced by Sellers and director Blake
Edwards in 1964's "The Pink Panther." Putting a broader stamp
on a distinct style that paid homage to the likes of Chaplin,
Keaton and Jacques Tati, the collaboration flourished over the
course of a half-dozen pictures, all bearing Henry Mancini's
immortal signature theme.

But even though Martin (who shares screenplay credit with
"Stripes" scribe Len Blum) and director Shawn Levy worked
together before in the first "Cheaper by the Dozen" remake,
they fail to generate the necessary comic sparks. Too many of
the gags fall flat on their face long before the inspector
does, and the entire pace feels like it's on some sort of
three-second delay.

The downbeat upshot strands a lot of usually reliable
talent, also including Kevin Kline as Clouseau's pompous
superior and Jean Reno as Clouseau's stoic assistant, as well
as Emily Mortimer and Kristin Chenoweth, in a comedy vacuum,
timing their performances to a nonexistent laugh track.

Despite being filmed in New York, Paris and Prague,
followed by some reshoots in Vancouver, the picture might as
well have been shot on a studio backlot for all the excitement
those backdrops manage to impart.

Miraculously, Mancini's score is about the only thing that
manages to emerge unscathed, even with composer Christophe
Beck's attempts at a techno-tinged update.


Inspector Clouseau: Steve Martin

Dreyfus: Kevin Kline

Gilbert Ponton: Jean Reno

Xania: Beyonce Knowles

Cherie: Kristin Chenoweth

Nicole: Emily Mortimer

Yuri: Henry Czerny

Director: Shawn Levy; Screenplay: Len Blum and Steve
Martin; Story: Len Blum and Michael Saltzman; Based on
characters created by: Maurice Richlin & Blake Edwards; Based
on the Pink Panther films by: Blake Edwards; Producer: Robert
Simonds; Executive producers: Tracey Trench, Ira Shuman;
Director of photography: Jonathan Brown; Production designer:
Lilly Kilvert; Editors: George Folsey Jr., Brad E. Wilhite;
Costume designer: Joseph G. Aulisi; Music: Christophe Beck.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter