The Pink Panther (2006)

The Pink Panther (2006)Synopsis: Get a clue.

When a star soccer coach is murdered and his priceless Pink Panther diamond stolen, France is in an uproar. Fortunately, Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Steve Martin, Bowfinger, Cheaper by the Dozen) is on the case. He doesn’t have a clue, but for Clouseau, that’s just a minor detail. With his partner, Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno, The Da Vinci Code, The Professional), he careens from one misadventure to the next, leaving mayhem in his wake from the boulevards of Paris to the streets of New York. Will he seduce the pop diva, Xania (Beyoncé Knowles, Austin Powers: Goldmember)? Will he push Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Oscar® Winner Kevin Kline, 1988 Best Supporting Actor, A Fish Called Wanda) over the edge? Will he catch the killer and recover the diamond? With Inspector Clouseau, anything is possible.


The Pink Panther (2006) 4.0

eyelights: Clive Owen’s cameo. Beyoncé’s deliciousness.
eyesores: Steve Martin’s version of Clouseau. Beyoncé can’t act herself out of a designer handbag. the failed humour. the poor score.

“It’s true. My surprises, they are rarely unexpected.”

When I heard that there was going to be a new Pink Panther movie, I was both mildly excited and wary: ever since the death of Peter Sellers, there have been attempts at filling his shoes and they’ve all failed – miserably. When I heard that Steve Martin got the part of Inspector Clouseau, my heart sank a little; this didn’t bode well. Not at all.

The thing is that when Martin is on, he’s fantastic. But his record has been very spotty ever since his success with ‘Roxanne‘. He’s only been at his best on rare occasions since – and often for family movies. Obviously the verdict was out, but I could hardly imagine him doing the physical humour that Sellers had developed with Clouseau.

But I picked up the DVD anyway (no, I didn’t go to the cinema to see it). I saw it in a second hand shop for 5$ one day and decided to give it a chance. Reviews hadn’t been terrific, but the film had been a mild box office success. this gave me a glimmer of hope, even if the sight of Martin not wearing Clouseau’s iconic get-up didn’t please me.

The movie f-ing sucked. I hated it. In fact, parts of it were pure torture.

I just couldn’t believe my eyes: this version of ‘The Pink Panther‘ was so painfully unfunny it was astonishing. Plus which they had changed the ingredients that were the source of the series’ success: Clouseau was undignified, Dreyfus wasn’t forced to work with Clouseau despite himself, Cato wasn’t around, and the music didn’t enhance the humour.

The original series’ inspired lunacy was nowhere to be found.

Not only did it lack sophistication and cleverness in the humour, it was also absent in the direction of the picture. The picture was shot in a 1.85:1 format instead of widescreen (which adds class to a picture), it never hit its marks, and it didn’t have any carefully coordinated routines, a staple of the original series. In short, it was a very weak effort.

I watched the DVD only a second time before getting rid of it – and only because a close friend, who was a big fan of the originals, was curious to see it. I don’t usually get rid of my DVDs, but I knew I would never ever watch this crap again. Actually, if I could forget I’d ever seen it, all the better. And so it was that I did, in fact, forget about it.

I had so completely disassociated myself from this film that, when I decided to watch it again so as to review it here, I had forgotten that I no longer had it. Urgh. So I found myself forced to find another copy (and its sequel – you’ve been warned!) at my local pawn shop. Thankfully, they have a 2 for 1 trade-in policy, and I brought 25 cent DVDs to trade.

I couldn’t possibly justify paying more than 50 cents for either of those turds (I haven’t yet seen the sequel, but reviews for it are even worse…).

The story in this reboot of the series amalgamates elements from the first two picture and adds its own twists: the Pink Panther diamond is now lodged in a large ring that the coach of France’s international soccer team wears. During a match with China, the coach is murdered in plain sight and the diamond disappears. Jacques Clouseau is put on the case.

The logic is as such: Chief Inspector Dreyfus knew of Clouseau’s ineptitude and wanted what he called the “village idiot” to officially take on the investigation and bungle it. Meanwhile, Dreyfus would do the real leg work in the background, solve the case and take the credit for it. So he brings Clouseau to Paris, and promotes him to the rank of Inspector.

Obviously things don’t go quite as planned. With Clouseau, nothing ever does.

So, what exactly is so bad about ‘The Pink Panther’ (apart from being hopelessly unfunny, I mean)?

Inspector Clouseau

First, there’s Steve Martin’s Clouseau. What made Clouseau funny was that he may have been a bumbling idiot, but he maintained a composed, dignified demeanour. This made his ridiculous actions and irrationality discrepant; the contrast added to the humour of the situation. Martin’s Clouseau looks and acts like a goof. Even at his worst, Sellers reigned it in more.

Inspector Clouseau’s accent

Secondly, there’s the accent. In the original series, Sellers’ accent was meant to be a joke. But almost everyone else spoke regular English to provide that contrast, to make him sound absurd. Here, they all have French accents (caricatured ones, I might add) thereby watering down the impact of his own. And, frankly, Martin’s “French” accent is insulting.

Ponton ≠ Cato

Clouseau is assigned an assistant to keep watch on him. Gendarme Ponton (played by Jean Reno) is the straight man, and is meant to replace Cato. The dynamic between Clouseau and Cato was funny because it was totally outrageous – insane, even. And we got it in small doses, for effect. Here, it’s a dry buddy-cop thing – it basically strips the duo of its magic.

Chief Inspector Dreyfus

Dreyfus is just a stuffy and arrogant careerist. In the original, he is forced to work with Clouseau when the latter is assigned to an important case by mistake. This drives him over the edge, because his loathing of Clouseau and his ineptitude is so intense that he simply can’t stand having him around. This is a core dynamic of the series. Or was.

The dialogues

The dialogues aren’t even worth a mention. In the original series, there were tons of non sequiturs peppering the dialogues, and a bunch of cleverly moronic exchanges taking place between Clouseau and other characters. Here, we get stuff like “I will have him cornered, like… something that you corner”. Wow. They must worked on that one for a long time.

The music

Henry Mancini created a groovy, classy theme for ‘The Pink Panther’ and it became iconic precisely for that reason; it’s one of the most recognizable themes ever recorded. But he also created all sorts of whimsical themes to enhance the humour – and to great effect. Here, Christophe Beck offers a traditional score and dancifies the original theme. Dancifies it. Ick.

Clouseau is actually clever

Clouseau solves the case through his powers of deduction. In the original films, he frequently solved cases – but only by bumbling his way through them. He would often not even know that he had solved cases until he was congratulated for it. By making him smarter than Dreyfus, it removes the notion that Clouseau is an idiot – a central device of the character and series.

There are so many unfunny moments in the film that I can possibly list them all, but here are the worst of the lot:

  • Watching Martin sluggishly running away from goats. It’s not a funny gag, plus the delivery was terrible.
  • When Clouseau helps Nicole, Dreyfus’ assistant, down from a desk and somehow gets her to straddle his face. Look, I realize he’s incompetent, but is she a moron too? If so, how did she get this job? Anyway, why would she straddle his face? It’s awkward, stupid and painful to watch.
  • At the 52-minute mark, Clouseau hires a leading linguist to teach him to speak English before going to the United States. For 90 excruciating seconds, she tries to get him to say “I would like to buy a hamburger”. Firstly, it’s not an essential piece of dialogue, even in the United States. Secondly, the way Clouseau bungles that doesn’t make any sense if you know the French language. Thirdly, it lasts forever (and to think that it was even longer in the original cut!). To make things worse, it returns later. This is when the film was past the point of no return for me; it has really hit bottom then.
  • Clouseau goes to New York City – because American audiences can’t have an American film that only takes place in Europe. And he falls in love with hamburgers. Of course he does. It’s the ultimate culinary expression of the United States, so how could he not? And it’s done in this romantic 360 shot in Times Square, too. Talk about misplaced nationalism.
  • Clouseau is disgraced in the most contrived and illogical way, leading to a corny moment when Clouseau is down on himself. After all, we have to feel bad for him before he rises back up and proves himself once and for all, right? So trite, so lame.

But there are highlights:

  • Clive Owen shows up as Agent 006. The scene is stupid and is contrived as heck. But he’s awesome.
  • Clouseau goes into a recording booth to fart, thinking that it is soundproof, but everyone can hear him. Yes, the fart joke is one of the few highlights of the picture. It says a lot, doesn’t it?
  • Clouseau falls through a hotel ceiling onto the clerk’s desk below. He nonchalantly tells him that they need fresh towels. This is exactly how the original Clouseau would have been: always proudly deflecting the issue to “save face”. And Martin’s deliver is perfect for this one. It’s one time only moment.

And that’s all I”ve got to give. The 2006 version of “The Pink Panther’ is a piece of crap that was clearly designed for low-brow audiences or mentally-deficient children. In fact, when Sony picked up the movie after buying MGM, they spent 5 million just to reshoot and re-edit the film so as to get a PG-13 rating. I think that this says a lot about the picture.

I can’t fathom why I would ever see this picture again. Now that I’ve warned everyone away from it, the DVD is a tosser. Do yourselves a favour, everyone: see the original. And, even if you don’t like it, at least give ‘A Shot in the Dark‘ or ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again‘ a chance. These are the best that series has to offer, and hopefully it’ll make you laugh.

But, for goodness’ sake, please don’t base yourself on this bastardization to make up your mind about the series. It’s not even the lowest form of humour. It’s just not funny. Blake Edwards, Peter Sellers and even Henry Mancini must have been rolling in their graves when this came out: it’s a blight on the series, and an insult to their phenomenal contributions to it.

Date of viewing: November 8, 2014

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