The Pink Panther 2 (2009) / Comedy-Mystery
MPAA Rated: PG for some suggestive humor, brief mild language and some violence
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Steve Martin, Emily Mortimer, John Cleese, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Yuki Matsuzaki, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons
Director: Harald Zwart
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Steve Martin
A benign but utterly redundant sequel to the reboot series started in 2006 with The Pink Panther. Steve Martin (Baby Mama, Shopgirl) stars once again as bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, on the trail of the most notorious thief in the world, The Tornado, who is on the scene again after over a decade of dormancy. The Tornado has left his calling card behind after stealing four of the world's most valued possessions: The Shroud of Turin, the Royal Emperor's Sword, the Magna Carta, and the Pink Panther diamond. Due to the size and scope of such a case, a "dream team" of super-sleuths from different countries has been called together to work in joint fashion to crack the case -- Britain's Pepperidge (Molina, The Da Vinci Code), Italy's Vincenzo (Garcia, Ocean's 13), Japan's Kenji (Matsuzaki, Letters from Iwo Jima), and France's Clouseau. Also assisting them is Clouseau's flame and co-worker in crime solving, Nicole (Mortimer, Transsiberian), his faithful assistant Ponton (Reno, Flushed Away), and the alluring Indian agent Sonia (Rai, The Last Legion).
Martin continues down the road of innocuous family-friendly fare with another film that just makes him look like he's just not very funny anymore. He's the albatross to this already outdated franchise, not because he can't handle physical comedy, but because his character is so far out there as a caricature of a Frenchman, it's hard to see him as anything more than a terrible Steve Martin impression. One can only scratch his head as to how the makers of these films have managed to secure such high-profile, acclaimed actors to come on board. Is it merely a paycheck, or do these thespians owe Martin a big favor? While none really have a chance to show off much comedic chops, there is a comfort level with familiar faces that makes for an immediate tolerance that no-names would lack.
There is plenty of slapstick involved, but it lessens the comedic factor when so many of the pratfalls are obviously enhanced by CGI. The storyline takes detours for the sake of comedy often, as whole scenes are contrived solely to generate more slapstick laughs, such as repeat jaunts to flammable restaurants, a visit to the Pope, and other such contrivances to test Clouseau's ability to be seen in public without making a complete ass of himself. It's a formula that has been there since the Peter Sellers days, but somehow they feel more forced here. And utterly predictable. Lily Tomlin (The Ant Bully) arrives halfway through the film to teach Clouseau a sense of ethics, where, for the convenience of the comedy, Clouseau automatically transforms into a womanizing bigot for the first time, ostensibly because the writers think it funny to meet such a stern woman's disapproval.
The Pink Panther 2 has a few mildly amusing moments, but not anywhere near the amount to justify the time or money spent on such a throwaway of a movie. If you find the sight of a guy falling on his ass and delivering a funny accent hilarious, who am I to stop you from having a good time with this? If there were more to the film than that, I might even recommend it, but, disappointingly, it seems the only thing the makers of this film care to offer. If you need something to keep the attention of young and old alike, perhaps there may be enough here for a family sit-down in front of the TV on a Blockbuster night, but it's scraping mighty close to the bottom of the rental bin when this is what you reach for.
©2009 Vince Leo