May 10, 2006 -- “The Pink Panther” was one of a series of police comedies directed by Blake Edwards and starring the legendary comic actor Peter Sellers in the 1960s and 1970s. This remake, sadly, is far inferior to the original two Pink Panther films released in 1963 and 1964 (“The Pink Panther” and “A Shot in the Dark,” respectively), despite the top-notch talent involved. The script is co-written by Steve Martin, a gifted comic. Martin also stars as the film's main character, the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Kevin Kline stars as his superior, Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Also starring is singer Beyoncé Knowles as Xania, one of the suspects in the case of murdered soccer coach Yves Gluant (played by Jason Statham of “The Transporter”) and the theft of the fabulous diamond called The Pink Panther. Knowles also sings some songs heard on the film's soundtrack.
The story follows the style of the original film closely. Clouseau, the bumbling detective, always gets his man even though his approach to solving crimes is bizarre, to say the least. He causes enormous destruction to property and injury to people as he stumbles along. He dismisses obvious suspects and zeroes in on other suspects who seem to have no connection to the case. His insights into the criminal mind are baffling. He follows incomprehensible lines of reasoning. The reason Clouseau is promoted to the rank of inspector and the reason he is put in charge of such a high profile case is that he is being used as a decoy. The real investigation is being headed up by Chief Inspector Dreyfus.
It turns out that Dreyfus is planning to make an arrest in the case based on suspicion, without any hard evidence to back it up, so he doesn't seem all that competent, either. One very odd scene in the film has a James Bond-like character, agent 006 (played by Clive Owen of “Closer”), who once was a candidate for the role of James Bond) crossing paths with Clouseau. In the end, it seems that Clouseau is not really as incompetent as he seems to be, while Dreyfus is far less competent than he seemed to be earlier in the film. In the original films, there was never any hint of Clouseau being competent. He always solved the crime through sheer luck. That was a running joke. Playing straight man next to Clouseau is his partner, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (played by Jean Reno of “Ronin”). Reno plays his part with a dead pan expression for the most part. Kline also seems to be playing it pretty straight. Emily Mortimer of “Match Point” plays Clouseau's secretary, Nicole. She also plays it pretty straight.
In the original films, part of the fun was seeing the consternation on Dreyfus' face caused by Clouseau's antics. To do this right, you need an actor who can do “the slow burn.” Herbert Lom, who played Dreyfus in the early films, was great at this. A modern actress who can do this well is Joan Allen. She did some great slow burns in last year's great comedy “The Upside of Anger.” In the Pink Panther remake, everyone seems to be underplaying these kinds of emotional reactions. Nobody seems to be reacting much to anything. Maybe this is the reason the comedy in this film just doesn't work. The characters don't react to each other, so the audience doesn't react, either. This film rates a D+.
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