The Pink Panther 2
dir Harald Zwart
scr Scott Neustadter, Michael H Weber, Steve Martin
with Steve Martin, John Cleese, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Alfred Molina, Yuki Matsuzaki, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons, Johnny Hallyday, Geoffrey Palmer
release US 6.Feb.09, UK 13.Feb.09
09/UK MGM 1h32
The Pink Panther 2
Keystone cops: Molina, Garcia, Matsuzaki and Martin

reno mortimer bachchan
London film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Pink Panther 2 There are a few inspired lines of dialog and a couple of moments where the slapstick actually works, but this sequel to the surprisingly not-awful remake is strictly for kids.

With a master thief called the Tornado on the loose, a team of crack detectives are working together on the case: slick, rich Italian Vincenzo (Garcia); gorgeous Indian bombshell Sonia (Bachchan); snooty, brainy Brit Pepperidge (Molina); and technical whiz Kenji (Matsuzaki) from Japan. But it's their leader who's the problem: bumbling French Inspector Clouseau (Martin), whose boss (Cleese) can't bear the thought of him. At least he brings along two efficient colleagues (Reno and Mortimer), but of course he also causes mayhem wherever he goes.

From the start, director Zwart goes for full-on slapstick, putting Martin in increasingly silly scenarios. Sometimes it's funny (watching on surveillance screens as he causes mayhem in the background), some scenes strain too hard for one simple gag (as he recreates the theft of the Pope's signet ring), while others try to recapture elements of the earlier films (a badly directed karate assault by three kids).

All of these sequences leave the rest of the cast (and us) squirming with embarrassment. At the centre, Martin throws himself into the physicality. But the fundamental problem is that his goofy-nerd Clouseau never loveable, which is what made Peter Sellers' performances so classic. This Clouseau is cocky, stiff and oddly predictable. Meanwhile, the other actors have little to do. Reno and Mortimer get the most engaging characters, while Cleese gamely struggles to capture the twitchy annoyance of Herbert Lom (or even Kevin Kline from part 1).

There are also, of course, even smaller roles that essentially waste fine actors like Irons (as a prime suspect), Hallyday (as a jewel thief), Palmer (as a police chief) and especially Tomlin, in a wedged in role designed only to diffuse complaints about the film's rampant stereotyping. But these comical stereotypes are, frankly, the whole point of a film like this. And they provide a few genuinely hilarious bits of dialog and farce. Not that young children will care about that; they just want to see Martin fall off something again.

cert pg themes, violence, innuendo 18.Jan.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall