The Pink Panther 2

(2009) ** Pg
92 min. Sony Pictures Releasing. Director: Harald Zwart. Cast: Steve Martin, Aishwarya Rai, Andy Garcia, John Cleese, Alfred Molina, Lily Tomlin.

/content/films/3333/4.jpgAt the dawn of Blake Edwards' Pink Panther franchise, part of the appeal was the romance of travel, with attractive jet setters lounging around a ski resort. Forty-six years later (with Edwards in retirement), the tenth Pink Panther film is more of a tourist trap, looking to French landmarks as backdrops. The sets and locations are eye-catching, there's a slinky, possibly fatale femme (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) on hand,and despite being "unorthodox," Clouseau will once again prove he's "the greatest detective in the world." But something is amiss: who's this guy playing Inspector Clouseau? It's Steve Martin, back for a second go-round of intensive mugging.

The Pink Panther 2 is pretty much right in line with 2006's The Pink Panther. If you enjoyed that one’s family-friendly clowning, you’ll probably enjoy this one just as much, and if you hated it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, well, get in line. The truth is somewhere in between: the Martin Panthers are studiously mediocre, which is a shame, given their potential to be more than a money grab. Martin again gets co-writing credit for the screenplay, and again there are a smattering of funny moments that no doubt emerged from Martin’s pen. For those looking for something for the kids in a Mr. Bean vein, there are worse things than Pink Panther 2. But the overall experience remains dispiriting to those of us who remember Peter Sellers in the role of Clouseau.

This time, the premise is Murder By Death-lite (that’s another Sellers movie, folks). A dream team of detectives assembles to catch a thief named The Tornado, whose targets include the pride of France: the Pink Panther diamond. The premise allows the casting of Andy Garcia (playing Italian again), Alfred Molina, and newcomer Yuki Matsuzaki as detectives (Molina gets the film’s funniest scene, a Sherlock Holmes-esque clue-off with Clouseau). Clouseau is still secretly pining for his executive assistant Nicole Durant (Emily Mortimer) and palling around with the one man who respects him, fellow detective Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno). Two former Martin co-stars sign up for supporting roles: the long-suffering Chief Inspector Dreyfus is now played by John Cleese (Kevin Kline having gone AWOL) and Lily Tomlin appears as Mrs. Berenger, a government official tasked with making the racist and sexist Clouseau P.C. Jeremy Irons even shows up to play straight man as a suspect in the thefts.

It’s just a shame that Martin feels he has to try so hard as Clouseau, where Sellers’ genius was in his underplaying. At his best, Sellers would wear a mask of imperturbable competence through every disaster he caused, but Martin accompanies every bit of physical comedy with popped eyes and a "Whhooaohohh!" I'm not sure anyone--even director Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks)--has any idea why: perhaps because it may give kids the giggles. Like the last film, this one returns to two memorable bits from the Sellers era: a physical gag involving a large globe (though this time it looks more like a Chaplin ode), and surprise karate matches (this time, with Ponton's karate kids). The discriminating eye will also be bothered to note that the physical comedy is transparently aided by stuntmen and special effects, a fate that eventually befell Sellers as well.

When all else fails, romance. In promoting The Pink Panther 2, Martin has told the press that every film he's made with a wedding or baby in the end has been a hit, so he insisted this one end with a wedding. But there is some amusement in Clouseau trying to rein in his attraction in the workplace. "You are like a brother to me," he tells Nicole. "A hot, sexy brother in a dress." A romantic dinner at La Plata de Nada predictably ends in disaster, and even the scene gets a sequel, when Clouseau returns to spy on Nicole and Garcia's Vicenzo (Martin's flamenco moves do inspire a smile).

/content/films/3333/5.jpgMartin has locked onto one funny trait for Clouseau: his linguistic mangling, a pronunciation that searches but does not find. Though Martin does well with this aspect of Clouseau, it's a sign of the sequel's desperation that it showcases the word "hamburger" to reprise one of the previous film's few highlights. Mrs. Berenger tells Clouseau, "You are the most small-minded nitwit I have ever encountered," and Clouseau replies, "I am sure I can do better." Something tells me that can-do spirit will translate into at least one more sequel. After all, there's still a baby ending to exploit.

Share/bookmark: Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink

Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/23/2009

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The Pink Panther 2 looks quite amazing on Blu-ray. This image achieves the three-dimensional "pop" of the best new transfers, with unwavering contrast, sharp detail, deep blacks, and vivid, accurate colors. No nasty digital artifacts here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix can be considered definitive, replicating the theatrical experience for your living room.

Fox includes several bonus features. For starters, fans will go gaga for the "Gag Reel" (3:34), which shows the distinguished ensemble cutting up.

"Drama Is Easy...Comedy Is Dangerous" (7:42, HD) mostly focuses on the film's physical comedy and stunt work, explaining how the labor was divided between the actors and stunt people. Participants include Steve Martin, executive producer Ira Shuman, producer Robert Simonds, John Cleese, stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director Ernie Orsatti, director Harald Zwart, Aishwarya Rai's stunt double Courtney Kaitlin, and Armel Bellec & Jack Metzger (the "Ponton" boys).

"A Dream Team Like No Other" (13:56, HD) spotlights the cast, one by one. Interviewees include Simonds, Martin, Zwart, Alfred Molina, Shuman, Cleese, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Andy Garcia, Yuki Matsuzaki, Aishwarya Rai, and dialect coach Jessica Drake.

Master Thief–Global Crime Showdown! is a trivia game allowing you to steal artefacts by correctly answering two out of three questions (you can also challenge other players for their artefacts). By winning three artefacts, you earn the right to go for the Pink Panther diamond.

On a bonus DVD disc, you'll find 27 classic Pink Panther cartoons, totalling over three hours of added entertainment.

A third disc includes a Digital Copy for ease of portable playback.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

Share this review:
Share/bookmark: Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Sponsored Links