The Pink Panther (Shawn Levy, 2006)

Just saw The Pink Panther yesterday and as noted elswhere--well, practically everywhere, actually--it stinks worse than panther piss.

What's interesting, however, is just why it stinks. Blake Edwards Panther films were not the height of cinema art, or even comic cinema art, but they had some kind of integrity: pretentiously sophisticated middle-to-upper-class bourgeoise worlds through which Clouseau passed, wanting to but not belonging, leaving chaos in his wake. You saw that in The Pink Panther, which ideally is a lightly comic heist film; A Shot in the Dark, a clever whodunit; Return of the Pink Panther, a 'To Catch A Thief' remake; The Pink Panther Strikes Again a James Bond superadventure--all well-made genre films, the only difference setting them apart being this two-legged disaster walking through their midst.

I didn't get that in this remake; there isn't any polished surface hiding turmoil beneath, any seriousness trying (vainly) to hold back welling insanity. It's just a kiddie cartoon using big and expensive setpiece--no subtext, no levels, nothing. The comic sequences don't have Edwards' beautiful simplicity; the music accompanying the sequences doesn't (as in Edwards' films) float on its own weirdly unaffected plane, but simply mickeymouses the action. The director, Lawn Chevy or whoever he is, doesn't show (unlike Edwards) any particular gift for comedy, or action, or musical numbers; he doesn't even seem to have much of a reason for being behind the camera at all.

As for Martin--just what I suspected: he puts quotation marks on his performance. He's a smiling goofball playing at a clod. He's probably a better physical comedian than Peter Sellers, but what he doesn't have, it seems, is Seller's incredible focus. Peter Sellers didn't play Clouseau, he was Clouseau; he totally inhabited the character. He's so totally convinced of the importance of what he's doing, no matter how moronic it might be, that his very seriousness is funny.

Herbert Lom as Dreyfus, unlike Clouseau, gets the joke, but considers it horrifying (that's why he goes mad); Kline, who was amusing in A Fish Called Wanda, can't even summon the enthusiasm to ask what the joke is. Only Jean Reno is maybe within deadpan shouting distance of the spirit of the original, Bert Kwouk's Cato (and even then the slapstick is largely uninspired--surprising, considering both Reno and Martin are physically adept actors).

Martin smirks and lets us know he isn't fooled; well, the joke's on him. I pretty much sat through the whole thing not laughing (except when Jean Reno started dancing--his moves were so sinously game I had to chuckle once or twice).

Nerdy Chick: Took a bullet for us, eh Noel? You'll never get those two hours back, you know.

Needed to see this movie, actually; goes to show just how difficult to achieve and how underappreciated (critically speaking, I mean) Edwards' Panther films were, at least to my mind...

Incidentally, Martin has an outlandish scene where he tries to pronounce 'hamburger.' Feh. Can't compare to Seller's fractured French:

"They attacked me with a beum."

"A what?"


"You said 'beum.'"

"Yes, the exploding kind."

Mancini's theme music is used, but you miss his incidental music; where Mancini was sexy and sophisticated (again that word), Christophe Beck's sophomoric.

Might also add that the animation (by Bob Kurtz, whoever he is--he wrote some of Fritz Freleng's Panther shorts, apparently) is smoother and more opulent and for some reason a helluva lot duller than Richard Williams' (has the same problem re: the pratfalls--Williams' are so much better than Kurtz's). There are no cartoons at the end titles--maybe the filmmakers were aware they shouldn't bother.

The movie's all the more redundant when you realize that Seller's schtick has already been remade, and successfuly (tho to a lesser degree, I think), in Leslie Nielsen's Lt. Frank Drebin movies.

To be fair, Emily Mortimer's nice to look at; actually I thought she was a helluva lot sexier than Scarlett Johanssen in Match Point.

The Voice notes that between this picture and The Trail of the Pink Panther (which was constructed from outtakes), the only real difference is that the star in this Panther is alive.

And--ooh--Roger 'I whore for a dollar' Ebert hates it. That's really scraping bottom.

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