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 Panther".
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 Inspector.
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, whose current 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.
The Pink Panther
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures present
a Robert Simonds
a Shawn Levy
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
Inspector Clouseau: Steve Martin
Dreyfus: Kevin Kline
Gilbert Ponton: Jean Reno
Xania: Beyonce Knowles
Cherie: Kristin Chenoweth
Nicole: Emily Mortimer
Yuri: Henry Czerny
MPAA rating PG
Running time -- 92 minutes