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The Pink Panther II

Movie title: The Pink Panther 2 (2009)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: The priceless Pink Panther diamond is stolen and the world famous Dream Team are put on the case with French Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Among my fonder memories are those from 1981 when, as a child, after seeing the 1964 Pink Panther and sequels, my brother and I would jump out and attack dad in the living room. I'd take the legs and brother would jump on his big luggedy back. Then would come the hits and kicks. Together, we brought him down (well, he let us win, to be more accurate). But our efforts were in the spirit of Kato, Jacques Clouseau's pain-inducing Asian friend, who would give the detective a karate fight for his life to keep him on his toes. Those are now very old memories for me being from a time when putting on a literally "brown belt" and thinking I was bad-ass made life worth living.

I don't know what it is about great older films and their ability to be both corny and classy at the same time, but it's a noteworthy quality. My memories of the old films featuring Clouseau are extremely hazy. Even the renowned Roger Ebert wasn't in the business of giving us his thoughts on cinema when these first came out, so I will not even try to compare the old with the new.

I will say that while many critics did not, I liked the new movie. I found it substantial plot-wise and funny in a cheap and slapstick-ish fashion. Or, put another way, I don't think I've ever seen a film where so much corn came off with such class. What should have proved to be uncannily crappy was actually funny--and not just in a British sense. I found myself laughing -- sometimes wondering why what I was watching I found funny -- but laughing still.

Steve Martin's charm works wonders. He may not be the best Jacques Clouseau ever, but he works. Emily Mortimer as Nicole, Clouseau's nerdically alluring love interest is a spark. Vicenzo (Andy Garcia) and Pepperidge (Alfred Molina) are members of the Dream Team, keen-minded men, but jealous of Clouseau's insight, and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese), Clouseau's boss have cleverly written parts and add the right personality contrasts. Go on and hate the movie all you want, but robust writing was the driving force behind the nod-worthy dialogue. The writers had a clear vision in mind of where they wanted the story to go and the core traits of the characters.

Clouseau's rivals are "normal" detectives--bright, but still average. Clouseau is unaware of his surroundings and as socially inept as an orangutan with a scalpel, but brilliant. You knew going in he was going to be an oddball, an oddball with an eye for the ladies while having trouble with female authority, as it turns out. He makes the simplest of things the most difficult.

At times, the film seems to be more geared for foreign audiences, and at times, it heads right into the stupidity stratosphere. Sometimes it's forced and sometimes it's funny. What can I say? It's impressive, but it's not. But certain berating critics should keep in mind that the movie was created in the vein of a classic. Go watch the original Pink Panther again and see if you don't cross paths with cringing corniness.

No, it's not conventional American humor (more British than anything else), but it is entertaining. Overdone French accents and clumsiness and those predictable "D'oh" moments only make it unique, not stupid. Irreverence towards the pope and grilling him with stupid questions as would be done with a coke-snorting street junkie only adds to the appeal.

The biggest criticism of the film as expressed by a number of critics was that the talent of the cast wasn't utilized to its full potential, which happens to be a valid criticism. So be prepared; in Pink Panther II, don't look to find great wit and keen, high-level comedic quality. Instead, look for silliness and clumsiness, for simplistic and mundane humor. But simplicity has a beauty all its own, and sometimes that's to be preferred.

(JH)

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Director: Harald Zwart
Starring: Steve Martin "Insp. Jacques Clouseau," Jean Reno "Ponton," Emily Mortimer "Nicole," Andy Garcia "Vicenzo," Alfred Molina "Pepperidge," Yuki Matsuzaki "Kenji," Aishwarya Rai "Sonia," John Cleese "Chief Inspector Dreyfus," Lily Tomlin "Mrs. Berenger," Jeremy Irons "Avellaneda"
Genre: Comedy

Comments

  1. It seems that your and my tastes are much the same the more I read the reviews. I'll definitely check out future ones. I was a huge fan of the old Pink Panther movies (except the last one ofcourse - the one with French Actor), so I was wary when I watched the first Pink Panther with Steve Martin in. But I was pleasantly surprised and this the second one was also quite good for me. Surprisingly my wife liked both the movies as well and she doesn't like Steve's movies most of the time. I am grateful that they got the mood of the Pink Panther movies right and am looking forward to more of them.

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