Comic legend Steve Martin reprises his role as Inspector Jacques Clouseau and co-writes the screenplay which entertains, but occasionally feels like a template for predictable, yet enjoyable visual gags. Based on director Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther film series, this crime comedy utilizes a cast of prominent actors, giving each at least one strong function within a solid plot.
Martin portrays Clouseau as a brilliant bumbler who still falls, quite literally, into situations where he can solve the crime… or at least temporarily quell it. Clouseau’s fingerprint gag near the beginning creates a fine line between Clouseau’s self-awareness and logical actions, which often result in laughs. “No, please disturb me,” says Clouseau as a woman asks to sit by him on plane. Clouseau’s clueless behavior is perfectly pitched as he pays attention to the important details while the supplemental events mine the comedy.
Veteran British actress Emily Mortimer plays Clouseau’s assistant/love interest Nicole. Their romantic relationship expands based on a special evening in Rome that includes a great sight gag involving every person in a restaurant. “We must never forget not to remember it,” says Nicole about that night as they try to keep their relationship secret in the workplace. Clouseau doesn’t always have the right words, but he does know when to take advantage of his reputation, even giving the audience little hints that he does take his work seriously.
Filmmakers also boost Clouseau’s observation talents throughout the quickly paced one hour and 27 minute plot as he matches up with a “dream team” of international detectives. This team must stop “Le Tornado”, a thief stealing prominent treasures including the Shroud of Turin, The Imperial Sword, the Magna Carta and, of course, the Pink Panther diamond.
Each detective matches with their nation’s respective treasure well. Andy Garcia plays Italian detective Vicenzo, who also takes a romantic interest in Nicole. Alfred Molina plays British detective Pepperidge and Yuki Matsuzaki plays Japanese detective Kenji. Clouseau’s antics test the group’s patience — as Kenji says, “I had to quit being a Buddhist, because I get so angry.” Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also joins the team as a crime expert — not a strong star-building role for the huge international Bollywood star, but she does make an impression. Clouseau’s observational “throwdown” with Pepperidge informs the team of Clouseau’s talents, which makes their tolerance of his tomfoolery throughout the investigation more plausible.
Clouseau’s bumbling reputation stresses Chief Inspector Dreyfus, played by John Cleese who takes over for Kevin Kline. Dreyfus predictably continues to sweep Clouseau under the rug by regulating him to parking meter duty. Filmmakers hint at a more sentimental relationship between the two that could expand in a possible future installment. Dreyfus also hires a social/political “coach” for Clouseau named Mrs. Berenger, played by Lily Tomlin. This coach becomes a unique plot device where Clouseau accounts for the inappropriate things he did.
Younger audiences know he did something insensitive that needs correcting, which represents additional appeal towards those viewers, which is also strengthened with the addition of Ponton’s two young sons. Clouseau’s partner, Ponton, played by popular French actor Jean Reno, has a basic support role as filmmakers shift his proud family tradition (nine generations of policemen) into general dedication as he becomes the glue that keeps Clouseau on the case.
Jeremy Irons has a small, but prominent role as Avellaneda, a mysterious figure questioned in the high profile thefts. His associate, played by Johnny Hallyday, has an even shorter, but important part. Irons has a magnetic presence it’s a wonder that Hollywood doesn’t put him in more prominent roles lately.
Director Harald Zwart handles the comedy well while utilizing some great international settings and admirable themes like using direct communication instead of assuming. The plot definitely has international appeal, so even if this movie doesn’t steal the box office gold in the US, but it will definitely clean up worldwide.
Pink Panther 2 provides great entertainment and succeeds with a variety of comedy ranging from crude to slapstick to elaborate with a few, short recycled jokes from the previous installment. The opening and closing animated credits, combined with Henry Mancini’s memorable musical theme, also enhance the fun a bit. If you’re keeping track, this film will be the eleventh entry in the Pink Panther film series. Clouseau was previously played by Alan Arkin, Roger Moore and, mostly notably, Peter Sellers. Recommended and rated PG for suggestive humor (little ones won’t understand it, but teenagers will), action, and brief mild language.