01/03/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
Somehow, it would be quite repetitive to beat the same old drum about Hollywood's insistence on revisiting favourable blasts from the past, says Frank. In a way, this latest uninspired edition of Blake Edwards's classic The Pink Panther simply upholds the overwrought trend of rehashing hits from yesteryear by giving them a contemporary makeover.
The Pink Panther (2006) Columbia Pictures
Somehow, it would be quite repetitive to beat the same old drum about Hollywood's insistence on revisiting favourable blasts from the past. In a way, this latest uninspired edition of Blake Edwards's classic The Pink Panther simply upholds the overwrought trend of rehashing hits from yesteryear by giving them a contemporary makeover.
Maybe the film handlers behind this stale update were ready to take on a new challenge by presenting the legendary movie franchise for fresher audiences? Whatever the intention, 2006's The Pink Panther only manages to conjure up our nostalgic appreciation for the late and great Peter Sellers and his famous take on filmdom's treasured clue-searching kook-the immortal Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Director Shawn Levy ("Cheaper by the Dozen") does try to incorporate the farcical madness that was so inviting in the collaborative romp of the Edwards/Sellers manic-style creativity. But Levy merely echoes the brilliant tactical craziness that was so spontaneously delivered in the original Panther pictures that effortlessly attacked the funny bone without any particular rhyme or reason. The balancing act of Sellers' bumbling fool was delicately drawn between nervous silliness and unassuming sophistication.
Sellers' Clouseau was a lovable idiot stuck in the middle of his manufactured chaos. He was the Zen-like court jester of crime and we climbed on his clumsy back because Clouseau was the fumbling underdog that deserved his day in the sun. Only a masterful performer could capture that nutty spirit that reminded us what a complex comedic genius that chameleon Peter Sellers was in his fictional facade.
The casting could not have been more appropriate than tapping the shoulders of comic cowboy Steve Martin and asking him to fill the nonsensical shoes of twitchy Inspector Clouseau. After all, Martin needed to take a clean break from the recent domestic dreck (the aforementioned Cheaper by the Dozen flicks) that has dominated his numbing cinematic resume as of late.
Martin certainly has the wacky energy and infuriating verve to crawl under Clouseau's clownish skin. But the mediocre material penned by Martin and co-writer Len Blum cannot overcome the polished pratfalls, inane verbal gymnastics and tiresome jokes that invade the contrived mockery. Realistically, a shade of pale should be the appointed color of this "pink" Panther that fails to mix international intrigue with its hysterical hiccups.
Clouseau's latest entanglement has the chronically inept, white-haired French officer investigating a staged murder at a heavily viewed soccer game. Also, this leads our moustache-wearing misfit to try and track down the missing precious diamond-The Pink Panther-that resulted in the aftermath of this big event homicide. With the death of a world-famous soccer coach to solve, Clouseau must determine the scoundrel in question while staying at a fancy hotel suite. The pompous Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (Oscar-winner Kevin Kline) is responsible for getting the incompetent crime solver on the case.
Will Clouseau live long enough to uncover the killer and recover the vanished diamond? With his self-made demolishing act of this posh hotel, Clouseau's maddening one-man wrecking crew antics may silence him completely. If his burning crotch isn't the source of his frustration then falling through the hotel room floor into the lobby agonizes the inquisitive Inspector of accidental occurrences. And who among the suspects is the target of Clouseau's sloppy inquiries? Is it the deliciously curvaceous international pop diva (played by ex Destiny's Child singing sensation Beyonce Knowles)? How about the unctuous casino owner (Roger Rees) and his shady reputation? Or maybe the suspicious Russian trainer (Henry Czerny) needs to be examined under the microscope?
Despite its frolicking nature, The Pink Panther limps along and never really musters up any genuine appeal to heighten the laboured laughs. Martin's shtick registers occasionally but is never consistent enough to establish a continual howl of honest hoots. Granted that Martin's prankish pronunciation with the word "hamburger" will have some in comical stitches. This, of course, is a reminiscent salute to Sellers and his riotous riff on verbalizing the word "monkey". Still, the forced gags and regurgitated references to fodder such as Viagra, the Internet, Flaming Mojito beverages and funny-sounding accents feel tediously outdated and obvious.
The supporting players willingly embrace the slapstick scenery but basically that is all they're relegated to do in this limiting, cheesy laugher. Knowles had pure fun participating in the Austin Powers sequel that showed what a sexy free spirit she could be on the big screen. Here, the sultry songbird is used more as a pleasing visual gimmick to ensure the hip box office attention of the youthful demographics. Jean Reno is quietly comical as Clouseau's straight man/bodyguard. And Kline's Inspector Dreyfuss is delightfully oily in his professional disdain for the clueless Clouseau. Yet there's a belief that not everybody is in sync with the slaphappy proceedings at hand.
As for the Panther-related memories of Edwards and Sellers-guys, you definitely don't have anything to worry about because this flaccid farce doesn't look pretty in Pink the millionth time around.
© Frank Ochieng 2006