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.
OK. Plot. A notorious international thief known as “Il Tornado” (what, Rudy Ray Moore is at it again?) has been stealing numerous priceless historical artifacts (e.g. the Magna Carta, Shroud of Turin, etc.). This prompts a collection of super sleuths (dubbed the “Dream Team”) from various countries to put their heads together to figure our the identity and location of “Il Tornado” before it’s too late. Unfortunately for Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (John Cleese, taking over for Kevin Kline), the Dream Team has requested that Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) join the investigation.
Naturally, it doesn’t take for the Dream Team to deduce that Clouseau is a fool and soon, his snobby ineptitude places the entire inspection in a jeopardy. Worse still, one of the detectives has the hots for Clouseau’s would-be girlfriend, Nicole (Emily Mortimer) — causing the proverbial male rivalry to commence. And so, between the search for “Il Tornado” and his quest to finally face his true feelings for Nicole out in the open, Clouseau has his hands full — as does his trusty assistant Ponton (the great Jean Reno, who also returns for another go at a successful franchise).
While it may not be the greatest comedy/mystery ever made, The Pink Panther 2 can still provide a good laughs (especially if they completely and totally pretend that the other incarnation never existed). A subplot of a police liaison (Lily Tomlin) trying to teach Clouseau the meaning of “politically correct” is inspired (which gives Martin an opportunity to utter the classic “little yellow friend” line). It’s always a delight to see John Cleese and Jean Reno doing comedy. And, the ensemble of co-stars — Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Yuki Matsuzaki, Aishwarya Rai (as members of the Dream Team), and Jeremy Irons (as a suspect) — is rewarding for fans, especially the moments where Martin, Molina, and Garcia play off of each other.
MGM gives The Pink Panther 2 a modest DVD and Blu-ray release. The DVD presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 ratio with an appealing transfer. The colors are well-balanced, and contrast is about as good as you’d expect for a movie as recent as this. The English 5.1 sound came through all fine and dandy-like, and the disc also boasts French and Spanish 2.0 Surround options. Subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish are also included.
Special features for the DVD release include a non-anamorphic gag reel (3:34) as well as two featurettes: “Drama Is Easy…Comedy Is Dangerous” (7:42) and “A Dream Team Like No Other” (13:56). A second disc is also included with the DVD release and features 27 classic Pink Panther cartoons. Even if you don’t care much for the movie, you’ll probably dig it for that alone. Optional subtitles for the shorts are included in French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Personally, I liked it. I’d even watch it again. Kids will undoubtedly enjoy it. Sure, it’s a bit silly even by modern motion picture standards (it plays almost like an early-90s reunion movie from the Family Channel), but it’s still good fun. And as for the Peter Sellers vs. Steve Martin debate, well there’s no cause in comparing and contrasting — you’ll only give yourself a headache (although I firmly believe Stanley Tucci could pull it off like no other). Look at it this way: you might have accidentally purchased a fake Rolex from some guy off the street. It might not be the real McCoy, but at least it keeps perfect time.
And if that horrid attempt at a clever analogy fails, just pinch yourself and keep repeating “There was no Peter Sellers, there was no Peter Sellers…”