Let’s pretend for a moment that the original Inspector Clouseau/Pink Panther films never existed. Sure, it’s a bit hard to imagine – it’s almost as painful to think about for me as is envisioning a world without Maruchan chicken-flavored ramen. But, remember, we’re only pretending, kids. Now, if you can picture a motion picture industry completely devoid of Peter Sellers and his subtle performance of the world’s clumsiest detective (and that is a very big “if,” I know), than Steve Martin does a pretty damn good job interpreting Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Many people are still wondering what the Hollywood moguls responsible for rebooting the entire franchise were smoking. Peter Sellers was the definitive Clouseau. Even the very talented Alan Arkin couldn’t compare when he tackled the role in 1968’s Inspector Clouseau – although I think he could have even succeeded had the film had a better script and retained Blake Edwards as director. No, wait, I take that back – even Blake Edwards learned the hard way that it was a big gamble to replace Sellers (see Trail Of The Pink Panther, Curse Of The Pink Panther, or Son Of The Pink Panther if you need confirmation).
But, of course, we’re pretending such things never happened. Forget about Peter Sellers. Do like those meditating hippies do: clear your mind. Say “Omm” a lot. Eat hemp. Apply liberal gallons of patchouli oil to your body as opposed to actually bathing. You know, stuff like that. And instead of what you remember the Pink Panther being like, think of the newer Pink Panther franchise as just that: newer.
The latest entry (and maybe the last entry if the box office receipts are any indication), The Pink Panther 2, isn’t really that terrible, people. As a matter of fact, I – a devoted Pink Panther film fanatic – found it quite amusing at times. Sure, Steve Martin can’t hold a candle to Sellers (who can?), but he realizes that, too – and so this version of Clouseau is entirely different. Martin embellishes Clouseau with his own brand of slapstick humor. Plus, he’s a bit smarter. Slightly craftier. He’s even somewhat more technology-savvy-er. That may downright annoy the old school fans, but we’re make-believing that there is no old school here, right? Right.