It’s not a crime to be silly, although the cast of The Pink Panther 2 dance perilously close to committing at the very least a misdemeanor. Steve Martin returns as Inspector Clouseau in the sequel to the highly successful Pink Panther reboot, and this time he’s joined by a bunch of extremely talented comic actors. You wouldn’t know it from having watched the film though. Despite a few laughs, The Pink Panther 2 is an even more tired and uninspired comedy than the last.
For the sake of tradition, here is the plot. Notorious cat burglar The Tornado leaves his self-imposed exile to steal some of the world’s greatest treasures, including The Shroud of Turin, The Magna Carta and The Pink Panther. France’s finest, Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Martin) joins an international dream team to foil the master thief, including the Italian Vincenzo (Andy Garcia), the English Pepperidge (Alfred Molina), the Japanese Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki) and the Indian Sonia (Aishwarya Rai). I don’t mean to profile, but these nationalities are truly the extent of the characterization.
This is all you really need to know about the story (saying that, you don’t really need to know anything about the story). Clouseau bumbles around, embarrassing himself and his Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese replacing Kevin Kline). Emily Mortimer returns as Clouseau’s coy love interest Nicole, while Jean Reno is back as his faithful sidekick Ponton. Oddly, Reno’s French accent sounds worse than any of the other actors, but never mind.
There are some (not unreasonable) expectations from a talented cast that includes Martin, Cleese, Garcia and Molina. Funny scenes for one. There are a couple of them, don’t get me wrong. A particularly clever slapstick sequence involving wine bottles is a rare highlight. But for the most part, PP2 falls far short of the mark.
Now at this point, I’m conflicted. Part of me thinks that Steve Martin shouldn’t waste his time on The Pink Panther series. Part of me thinks it’s a grossly undeserving platform for his talent. Then I think, maybe not. Martin has dedicated his career to making people laugh, and I’d be lying if I said that my packed screening wasn’t filled with people of all ages crying with laughter. Compared to Peter Sellers, Martin’s Clouseau obviously pales. Sadly, the fanbase of this new franchise doesn’t seem to care, or even know who Sellers is. When the film finished, smatterings of applause could be heard throughout the theatre.
Maybe The Pink Panther 2 is actually really, really brilliant? Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ll really enjoy this film, and it will be remembered in the halls of time as a modern comedy classic. Or maybe some people are just easy to please. But look, the film is no crime against comedy. Just a minor infraction.