Martin v. Sellers

The key to enjoying The Pink Panther 2 is realizing that Steve Martin will never be as funny as Peter Sellers.

The key to enjoying The Pink Panther 2 is realizing that Steve Martin will never be as funny as Peter Sellers. In fact, Steve Martin in his entirety will never be as funny as Peter Sellers’ bushy mustache.

Set your comedy bar low and you’ll be fine. It’s not exactly a compliment, but the movie is not exactly good.

But I have to report that I did laugh. Quite a bit. Even if the laughter made me feel a little empty. I laughed so much that I even thought of adding the original Steve Martin Pink Panther to my Netflix cue, until I got home and checked its Rotten Tomatoes score: 23 percent.

Maybe I’ll pass.

The sequel finds Martin’s Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a character which Sellers brought to life in 1963, fumbling his way through yet another investigation. He is trying to catch The Tornado, a master thief who has managed to steal the Shroud of Turin, the Pope’s ring, and of course, the titular Pink Panther diamond, which like car stereos in Parking Structure 3, never seems to stop getting stolen.

A “dream team” of international investigators, including Andy Garcia as Vicenzo and Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2, or as he will always be known to me, the singing coke dealer in Boogie Nights) as Pepperidge, team-up to recover the items while massaging their superstar egos.

Cue Clouseau falling down, destroying evidence and accidentally solving the case, much to the annoyance of the clever criminals and detectives surrounding him. Derp!

Joining the new cast additions—which include the stunning Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and the not as stunning John Cleese—are returning actors Emily Mortimer as Clouseau’s timid love interest and Jean Reno as Ponton, his ever-faithful helper.

It may seem like these actors are slumming, but these roles are junk food for them. Comic actors love to play stupid, even if their performance will never make it on their clip reels.

The original screenplay, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, reportedly went through a number of rewrites over the last few years, until Martin eventually stepped in and cleaned it up himself. Martin has always been a talented writer and his way with words definitely comes through in the film.

The rhythmic dialogue folds back in on itself, and punch lines seem to come from the left, until they hit you on the right. It’s all well done, so much that it makes me wonder what could have been done with better direction by Harald Zwart (of Agent Cody Banks “fame”) and some more polish. Maybe next time.

But back to Martin. Having not seen his first go-around as Clouseau, I was unprepared for the oddness of his character.

He speaks with a bizarre French accent that is so bad (purposeful mind you) that I can’t believe the French haven’t gone to war with us yet over the insult. He’s also very childlike in his logic and movements, which bring to mind a sleazy Mr. Bean. Thankfully, like jumping into a freezing pool, you get used to the character after a while.

Yet in all fairness, I will state again that I did laugh and you probably will too. And in a time when silly comedies are in short order, we can at least be thankful someone is trying to touch our funny bone.

Even if that person is a disturbing man-child with silver hair, a fake accent and an awful mustache.