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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Pink Panther: Two in One

It is truly sad to admit that critics generally hate this movie. Well, I'm not really admitting it because that would suggest that someone was hammering me for that information. Moving on? Yes, the 2006 remake of Blake Edwards's supposedly "brilliant" Pink Panther was bashed by critics. Honestly, the 1963 was a dreadful bore. In respect to the late Blake Edwards, whose directing I enjoyed in The Great Race among others, the old Pink Panther was just not great. At least not as great as everyone is setting it to be. Peter Sellers portrays the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, in an iconic role. My interpretation: the textbook-hilarious Peter Sellers provides a performance that simply does not satisfy my sense of humor. A nice way of putting what I really think, but I'm not as callous as you believe. (Just to note, for future possible reference: The only place I enjoy Peter Sellers is when Geoffrey Rush portrays him in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Moving on.)

Now, the new Pink Panther, directed by Shawn Levy, is a pure work of comedy. Sure, it's full of (what some may call) cheap gags and lots of physical humor, but...it's a comedy. I know I'm not one for that kind of humor, when actors like Kevin James are on the screen, but, here with Steve Martin, it is a delight. That's right, I believe Steve Martin's role as Inspector Jacques Clouseau is one of the best in his career. And definitely beats Peter Sellers by a whole lot. Now, I know Steve Martin fans (and Peter Sellers fans) are violently shaking their heads in disagreement. But it's my opinion, and I am standing by it, god damn it. Or God damn it? Damn It? Anyway.

Watching this film is like sucking the sweet vanilla extract that made a treat so delicious. Meaning that this film is the core of most great comedies. Of course, not this movie in particular, but older ones like this. (And no, not the original Pink Panther. Like I said, it's boring.) The humor may be somewhat simple, and at times plain silly, but, in this whole scenario of a movie, it somehow works. The idiocy of Steve Martin's Jacques Clouseau is rather typical... (but that is the epitome of Clouseau, no? yet it is just hilarious. Now, what I do not understand is why critics harshly bashed his performance, as it was much funnier than Peter Sellers's confusing, apparently-subtle humor. Then again, I am most likely the spawn of a new generation... (most likely?) one that doesn't "appreciate 'true' comedy". (Yet I do adore Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder. Interesting.) Whether Peter Sellers was great as the Inspector is not relevant here! Why I keep returning to it is a puzzle.

Better than Daniel Craig? I think not.
Emily Mortimer plays the clumsy-cute Nicole, who would be the object of equally-clueless Clouseau's affection; Jean Reno plays Clouseau's seriously serious confidante, Ponton; and Kevin Kline plays the Chief Inspector of Paris, who despises Clouseau and wishes for him to blunder as he expects him to. One key point that I adored in this movie was a cameo in a certain scene: Clive Owen, as special agent 006. Might I highlight the obvious hint? This movie was released just before the new James Bond was announced! As you already know, Daniel Craig (ugh) got the coveted role. (Is it coveted? I imagine it would be.) Here, in The Pink Panther, it seemed perfectly clear, and clearly perfect, that Clive Owen would take over as the new 007! And it irks me that much more to know this was the closest he will ever be to being a secret agent. Unless he makes a hilarious chain of spy-spoof films. Or, if life is truly cruel, those spoofs will be totally unfunny and be just another failed Epic Movie. Moving on.

One factor I did not particularly care for in the movie was Beyonce. Her role as the sexy singer Xania was a bit aggravating to deal with. Plus, she and Steve Martin are an awkward couple, wouldn't you say? Seriously, she's a bit out of his league. (Steve Martin's hot.) I'll sum it up by saying she is not a good actress. Correction: She's not an actress...as in she cannot act.

It's a shame, an absolute shame, that such a wonderful movie produced an utterly horrifying sequel. Of course, this is Hollywood, the Land of Terrible Sequels Except the Times They're Actually Pretty Good or Better. (No, that's not what Hollywood is known as at all. I made that up. Disregard my attempt at humor.) But yes, The Pink Panther 2, directed by Harald Zwart (different director, there's your first problem), was atrocious. Jean Reno's character, who was stone-faced funny in the first one, is now reduced to a corny family man-type sidekick. One outrageous change was of Chief Inspector Dreyfus, played by the always-delightful Kevin Kline with an impressive French accent, underwent an unusual transformation. I'll just get to it: In the sequel, he's British, played even more British by uber-British John Cleese.

The most foolish concept of this movie is the sheer idiocy of the Dream Team. This childishly-named team of the world's greatest sleuths (oh, forgot to put air-quotes, as they are probably the worst detectives in the world) assembled in order to capture one thief known as the Tornado. This thief has been stealing priceless artifacts, such as the Magna Carta and, of course, the Pink Panther diamond. This so-called master thief is rather stupid, if you watch this movie with the mind of an intelligent adult, as he/she always leaves behind case-cracking evidence at the crime scene. Dumbass.

There will be no spoilers here, as I move on to the movie's overall quality.

The members of this wondrous Dream Team are Andy Garcia, as an overly-Italian "casanova" Vicenzo Brancaleone; Alfred Molina, as a chip-chip-cherrio British sleuth Randall Pepperidge (guess Sherlock Holmes wasn't available); a Japanese tech-geek, whose participation in the Team is not that impressive (then again, is anyone's?); and Aishwarya Rai as the sultry-sexy Sonia Solandres. They are all depicted as buffoons, plain and simple. Whether that was intended by the director or not, it just did not work out. At all. Jeremy Irons, also, makes an appearance, which sort of baffled me. It was a fine how-do-you-do, that's all.

Overall, I would just like to say that the new Pink Panther is really funny. Don't argue with your screen because, as always, that's what I think of the movie. Both movies were rated rather low on IMDb after all. The first one, in 2006, was flat-out hilarious, even after a seventh viewing of it. True, as I have said before, its humor may appear to be for the simple-minded, while the Blake Edwards classic is inclined to more "intellectual" folk. I guess you can call me part of the unrefined population. (Although you shouldn't, considering I'm far more sophisticated than most adults I know. But I don't care what you think. Yes, on paper, I'm haughtier than I claim to be in reality.) Anyway, The Pink Panther is, indeed, entertaining. The Pink Panther 2, I'm sad to say, was a tremendous disappointment, bearing in mind how anxious I was to see it. All those stars (well, one Oscar-nominated Andy Garcia) turned out to do nothing for the movie. In fact, the Oscar-nominated actor himself was the worst part of the movie! That horrible Italian accent! One would think that if he was in The Godfather Part III would be a bit more capable with an Italian accent. Did you know that Andy Garcia was Cuban? I didn't.

I'd also like to add that Steve Martin's Razzie nomination for the second one was totally unnecessary. His accent might have gotten thicker and less-understandable, and he might have endured much more physical gags, but he was definitely not the worst thing about this film. Actually, he might have been the best part of the film, as his comical portrayal as Inspector Jacques Clouseau was just that: comical. Even with the repetitious and exhausting "damburger" joke.

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