The Pink Panther
The role of Inspector
Clouseau (or variations of...) from The Pink Panther movies has been
played by quite a few actors over the years. The high water mark is of
course Peter Sellers, who portrayed the character in five movies from the
sixties and seventies -- six if you count the 1982 Trail of the Pink
Panther which came out two years after Sellers' death, made up of
outtakes from the earlier films.
Alan Arkin took on the
character in one 60s film called Inspector Clouseau. Future Oscar-winning Italian comedian Roberto Begnini was The Son of the
Anyone remember sitcom actor Ted Wass of Soap and Blossom in The Curse of the Pink
Panther? I didn't think so. And did you realize that in the
same movie, an uncredited
Roger Moore (aka James Bond) also took on the
gendarme's fedora? Of course you didn't.
So, right off the bat, Steve Martin is the second most
talented person to play the lead in a Pink Panther movie and he actually does very well with the
character -- at least as well as you possibly could at this point in
history. There are some legitimate and significant laughs in this
That doesn't make the movie
any less pointless to remake.
Well, it's not exactly a
remake. Actually it's being sold as a prequel set in the present day,
though unless the good Inspector found a time machine, the whole idea of a
prequel is that it is supposed to have happened before the other
There is not much saying why
this choice was made. There are a few nods at modern life -- Clouseau
is hooked on the internet, takes viagra and drives a Smart (a tiny European
automobile which looks a lot more funny to us Americans than the Parisians
in the film who undoubtedly see them all the time.) Otherwise, though,
the film is as old-fashioned as can be.
Particularly the escalating
slapstick set pieces in which Clouseau just keeps upping the mayhem while
trying to fix his mistakes -- slapstick is a rather lost art for a reason --
what can be funny can also be irretrievably quaint and dated looking.
The Pink Panther is constantly straddling that fine line. The
fact that the film does offer some real laughs is undoubtedly due to
Martin's contribution to the screenplay.
However, the whole vehicle
is tied to a style that doesn't work in the current movie climate and in the
end wastes an extremely talented cast. Particularly stranded is the
normally wonderful Kevin Kline in the role of Clouseau's nemesis Chief
Inspector Dreyfus. Kline is stuck on slow burn. He is never
allowed to totally let loose as Herbert Lom had done in the role years ago.
Also, Kline's French voice is
oddly off -- we know he can play Gallic convincingly, he had a terrific
accent in the 1993 romantic comedy French Kiss with Meg Ryan.
In fact, most of the French
accents here are a little off and put on by non-French actors; Americans
Martin, Kline and Kristen Chenowith and Brit Emily Mortimer. Only Jean
Reno is actually French and only Martin's accent totally works -- and that
is specifically because he is not doing so much a French accent as a
Clouseau accent. Part of the joke of the role is that the
Inspector's accent is so thick that he is nearly incomprehensible.
Granted, the non-French actors are a running problem with these films.
Sellers and Herbert Lom (who played Dreyfus in most of the previous films)
were not French either, after all.
Even though she isn't even
bothering to do a fake accent, the romantic lead as played by singer Béyoncé
Knowles is a real problem. As an actress, Béyoncé is an
okay pop star. She looks good. She can sort of pull off
smoldering. But she really has no acting chops to talk of -- though in
her defense, Meryl Streep couldn't make this nothing role seem accomplished.
As far as Martin, I'm sure
he got paid a lot of money for this movie and he was able to live in Paris
while filming, so it is hard to totally begrudge him. If this is the
price we have to pay to get him to be able to make more personal and
intelligent films like Shopgirl, Roxanne, LA Story and Bowfinger;
at least he put in a lot more effort than most of his other remakes or
sell-out films like Cheaper By the Dozen, Sgt. Bilko, The Out-of-Towners
and Bringing Down the House.
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Posted: February 25, 2006.