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IN SHORT: Funnier than the first one. [Rated PG for some suggestive humor, brief mild language and action. 92 minutes]
Those looking for our review of Steve Martin's first outing as Inspector Clouseau won't find it. We detested it. Simply, we'd grown up on the Peter Sellers version and, as much as we'd like to say we could ignore them, Martin's Clouseau was too close to Sellers' shtick for our taste and we thought the film would vanish, mercifully, into the great dust bin of "ideas that sounded really great when we pitched them."
Yeah, OK, the thing made a zillion dollars and now there's a sequel.
It took about thirty more minutes for us to shake off what was left of our Sellers fixation and, along with an audience of those for whom Sellers (or director/co-creator Blake Edwards, for that matter) is not even a footnote in their history of film experiences, settled down and started to laugh. Not guffaw, mind you, laugh. Of course, pratfall comedy isn't about flow. It's about actors falling down a lot or busting up a set. There's all that and plenty to spare in PP2, in which an ace thief called "The Tornado" (Johnny Halliday) has stolen the greatest treasures of the world -- The Shroud of Turin, the Japanese Imperial Sword, England's Magna Carta and, of course, France's most prized gem, the infamous Pink Panther -- leaving a calling card with his name on it, in the local language, behind.
The greatest detectives in the world are assembled as a "Dream Team" to track down the villain led by France's Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese) . . . waitasec, the French government decides (d'uh) that the World's Greatest Detective must lead the team, and so Inspector Clouseau (Martin) is brought back from a super-secret undercover assignment. We're not going to wreck the joke that starts the film because it becomes important as the last joke of the film. So there...
Said Dream Team, led by Clouseau, is comprised of the very proper Pepperidge of Britain (Alfred Molina), Japanese techno geek Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki), Italy's lover not a fighter Vicenzo (Andy Garcia) plus a "The Tornado" biographer named Sonia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) whose book on the thief contains more background than in any police file. Even as they shlep back and forth in Europe, always waiting for Clouseau back in France is one Mrs. Berenger (Lily Tomlin), hired to correct the inspector of his non-PC ways. Their first trip is to Rome, to interview The Tornado's alleged fence (and a prime suspect) called Avellaneda (Jeremy Irons) coincides with the latest theft -- The Pope's ring! (Eugene Lazarev as the pontiff)
Not that we've forgotten the running subplot of Clouseau's competent aide, Ponton (Jean Reno), who is bunking on Clouseau's couch since leaving his wife -- he also has the kids and dogs, which yields one flat out "tribute" to a scene from one of the old series, or a so-far unfulfilled romance with co worker Nicole Durant (Emily Mortimer).
Boy that's a lot of stuff to get through. And if this reads like there's too much stuff stapled together, well, yeah. A lot of the elements of Pink Panther 2 do feel like they are stapled together. Individually funny they don't flow naturally. Collectively, once you start laughing (and, this is important, get in with a large crowd) you won't stop.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Pink Panther 2, he would have paid . . .
By the time it's done, Pink Panther 2 looks very much like a Three Stooges short! Our rating puts it at a dateflick level. Get one. Take one. And for those who want to compare tastes in humor: the longest scene with Ms. Tomlin is one of the funniest in the film, followed closely by Martin doing pantomime as a Spanish flamenco dancer.
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