Dir: Harald Zwart. US. 2009. 92 mins.
Steve Martin’s second outing as Inspector Clouseau is a hit-and-miss family entertainment which relies heavily on the audience’s affection for the bumbling policeman to make up for a paper-thin storyline and a drab visual palette. Aiming almost too broadly for kids, this second film in the reignited franchise might bore adults expecting more sophisticated humour from seasoned pros such as Martin, John Cleese and Lily Tomlin.
But a franchise character like Clouseau and a comedy superstar like Martin can never be underestimated, as Sony and MGM found out when Shawn Levy’s first - and superior - Martin/Clouseau film grossed $160m worldwide in 2006. The sequel should produce some tidy numbers for the two studios as it rolls out around the world, and it will stand out as one of the rare live action family-friendly comedies in the marketplace.
Levy handed over directing reins on the sequel to Harald Zwart, whose credits include Agent Cody Banks and One Night At McCool’s. Levy has more of a feel for glossy Hollywood comedies (Night At The Museum, Cheaper By The Dozen) than Zwart, whose task on Pink Panther 2 was clearly to deliver more of the same rather than bring any fresh perspective to proceedings.
The plot concerns the theft of priceless treasures from the world’s museums - the Magna Carta, the Shroud Of Turin, the Japanese emperor’s sword - by a mysterious thief called The Tornado who has come out of retirement. Anticipating that the Pink Panther diamond will be next, the French authorities force Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Cleese) to assign Clouseau to a dream team of detectives from each country to catch the thief.
Just as he is about to set off to Tokyo, the Pink Panther is stolen and Clouseau returns to central Paris where he meets the other detectives on the case - Vicenzo (Garcia) from Italy, Pepperidge (Molina) from England, and Kenji (Matsuzaki) from Japan. They are joined by the beautiful Sonia (Rai Bachchan), an expert on the life of the Tornado.
The investigation takes them to Rome and back to Paris (looking particularly dreary against cloudy skies) where both the old Tornado and the new thief are unmasked.
The plot of course is lame and secondary to Clouseau’s antics. Martin is a superb physical comedian and some scenes - the burning down of the same restaurant in Rome, twice, for example - are priceless. Clouseau’s relationship with his doting assistant Nicole (the ever-appealing Mortimer) and his associate Ponton (Reno) are also key anchors.
Welcome new additions include Tomlin, teamed for the first time with Martin since 1984’s All Of Me, as a political correctness trainer in the police department and Garcia as the Italian detective romancing Nicole. But Molina, Jeremy Irons and Johnny Hallyday are wasted and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is all at sea as the glamorous Sonia in the face of such talented comics.
Robert Simonds Productions
Scott Neustadter & Michael H Weber
Based on a story by Neustadter & Weber
Based on the Pink Panther films of Blake Edwards
Based on characters created by Maurice Richlin & Blake Edwards
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan