Monday, February 4, 2008

The Pink Panther (2005)

"The Pink Panther" (Shawn Levy, 2005) I've always been a big fan of the Blake Edwards' "Panther" films (until they became out-take reels, anyway), so when I heard of a new version with Mike Meyers as Clouseau, I didn't give it much of a chance. When Steve Martin signed on to take the role Peter Sellers made famous (and has been briefly taken over or supplanted by, respectively, Alan Arkin, Ted Wass, and Roberto Benigni) I gave it even less of a chance. The not too terribly bad. Martin doesn't so much copy Seller's Clouseau, as spoof David Suchet's Hercule Poirot. His Clouseau is still informed of ego and little else, and is blithely unaware of what a prat he really is. Martin resists the urge to play it more broadly (which is his weakness), and if he doesn't have Sellers' innate ability to take things in a perversely savage manner, he does manage to keep the comedy up and the timing semi-precise (he's aided immeasurably by a bit too aggressive sound-design). One also has to credit the writers and Levy for matching Blake Edwards' ability to make a joke out of taking a small inconsequential act and turning it into a disaster. There is a terrific Edwards-ian gag involving a large globe (but NOT having Clouseau catch his finger in it as it spins) that builds quite precisely and would fit just as well into a silent film, which is from where the physical comedy of the "Panther" films sprang, and did a prat-fall. There are big changes. No Cato, though the gag is kept. Closeau still has a deadpan assistant (though now it's Jean Reno, whose potential is a bit wasted). And the plot is a combination "Pink Panther" and "A Shot in the Dark," although Beyoncé does not show as much screen-potential as Elke Sommer (that's one of those things you think you'd never write!) Someday Beyoncé may find a vehicle for her talents, but right now she's a bit behind Mariah Carey in the "Diva Most Likely Not To..." category (Somebody's going to have to overcome "The Curse of Diana Ross!"). And nobody can replace Henry Mancini, so Christopher Beck (who scored a lot of "Buffy") doesn't even try to match the sophistication. Michael Giacchino would be a better choice. And Kevin Kline feels a bit...restrained as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, though why no one thought of casting HIM as Clouseau is beyond me.

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