The Pink Panther 2
It seems to me the height of arrogance, if not stupidity, to try to remake a movie in which the leading role was made iconic by the original. The “Pink Panther” series, originated by writer-director Blake Edwards, consisted mostly of relatively unfunny, unentertaining, bland spoofs. The only one that exceeded mediocrity was the original, “The Pink Panther” (1963), which not only had the legendary Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, but a good cast that included David Niven and Robert Wagner to go along with him. Except for his incredible performance in “Dr. Strangelove” (1964) the next year in which he played four roles, this was Sellers’ definitive role. In fact, as his career faded he came back to Clouseau time and again, playing the inspector five times in toto. Except for “A Shot in the Dark” (1964), the sequels were all pretty dismal. Even so, Sellers’ performances had a panache to them that made the role his.
Steve Martin is trying to revive the franchise and his performances are simply unwatchable. While Sellers played Clouseau as a bumbling fool who didn’t recognize his ineptitude, he was lovable. Martin’s take is to play him as an unlikable egomaniac. In effect, Martin is not playing Clouseau, he’s playing Sellers playing Clouseau and it is a dismal thing to watch.
Given the deplorable script (Martin, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber), all this is, is a film about accents and that’s hardly enough to hold an audience for an hour and a half. Martin’s faux French accent just gets more annoying as the film progresses, as do the accents of the rest of the cast, especially Emily Mortimer and Andy Garcia. With no story, and the fact that Martin had a lot of creative input into the film, director Harald Zwart was left to concentrate on accents.
Steve Martin was at the apex of standup comedians in the late ‘70s. The only people I’ve seen who could compete with him in terms of pure humor were Richard Pryor and Mort Sahl. But Pryor and Sahl were intellectual stand-ups. Martin played the fool. It was funny on Saturday Night Live. As far as I’m concerned, it bombs on the big screen, and has for the 30 years Martin has been trying.
How bad is this? John Cleese has the capability to be one of the funniest men on the face of the earth. Given good material, like “Fawlty Towers,” a 1975 TV series, he is one of the best. But, then, Cleese wrote his own material for “Fawlty Towers” (and the enormously uneven “Monty Python”). This film, in which he is forced to utter lines written by others (one of them Martin), makes him look about as funny as a guy waiting to cross the street.
There is nothing remotely funny in this film. It’s not a coincidence that MGM and Columbia waited until the dead of winter to release this bomb.