Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Another Pink Panther Pan
Published on Tuesday, March 1, 2005
A Worthwhile Review Of The Worthless PINK PANTHER Remake!!
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
This is a great test screening review because this guy knows his stuff. Check this out:
I just got back from a screening of the "remake" or "re-envisioning" of the Pink Panther at the MGM tower over on Constellation Blvd., and thought I’d give my two cents (for whatever the hell that’s worth).
I won’t bore you with my lunchtime ham sandwich or the musty guy speaking in tongues behind me in line. What I will bore you with is my love of Peter Sellers and the original movies.
I'll be honest... I own them all, but rarely watch them completely through anymore. Nowadays I just zero in on Sellers in action, cutting through the fat that is plot to what we all paid to see. With the exception of the original Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark, the Pink Panther movies’ plots had the strength of a Bates Motel shower curtain. They were there only to give Clouseau "motivation" to bumble his way to the finish line. But hey, I ain't complaining, because watching Sellers work both broad and subtle (remember this word) comedy in the same scene was watching brilliance in action. The key to Clouseau is that he doesn’t think he’s in a comedy. Nearly everyone is playing it straight, including himself. He thinks he’s the brilliant star of his own murder mystery, even when he leaps over parallel bars and down a flight of stairs. He responds to the flaming wreckage of his ineptness with the "oh my" grace of a man that merely tripped on the curb.
Okay, plot first--like I said before, plots aren’t that important in a Panther movie (at least not to me). In this new one, Jason Statham is a rich soccer team owner that is murdered before a live audience and robbed of the Pink Panther diamond. Beyounce Knowles (sure, she’s just in here as eye candy, but me and my wang ain’t complaining) plays his fiancée, who is also suspected of being involved in the homicide/robbery. Kevin Kline plays Chief Inspector Dreyfus, who assigns Clouseau (Martin) to the case as a decoy to draw attention away from his own investigation. He assigns Jean Reno to assist him and "keep tabs."
That said, in this new version we get a Clouseau with the functionality of a mentally "challenged" person trying to climb a tree with his ass. Which is kinda suprising, because I was hoping that Steve Martin, being a comedic genius in his own right, understood what made the character work. Meaning this: if I were to ask myself at age seven why I liked Inspector Clouseau, I probably would have said something simple, like, "‘Cuz he’s funny! The funny talking man hit his head!" And then crapped my pants. (I had issues.)
And that’s what this movie feels like. We get a lot of Clouseau tripping, falling, farting (yes, farting), inflicting pain on himself and others, but with none of that subtlety that always accompanied the gags. When I was seven, I laughed at Clouseau falling through a hole in the floor. Now I laugh at Seller’s subtle facial expressions before and after the fall. Martin’s Clouseau, while not horrible, just feels like a live-action cartoon. He’s such an imbecile, such a retard, that he has to do something completely stupid in every single scene, every single second. In one scene, in order to show a suspect he is interrogating how his electrical "interrogation" device works, he hooks it up to his own balls and turns it on. Clouseau wasn’t bright, but he ain’t missing that many brain cells. You can see the jokes coming a mile away because in this version, Clouseau must do something stupid every single moment. It feels like Martin (who also co-wrote the screenplay) threw every gag and joke he could in the script, hoping they would all stick and not fall to the floor with a thud. And yes, some gags do work. But at the end of the day, you still have a big pile of not funny to scoop up. After all, this is the Pink Panther, not the Naked Gun. Sellers could turn simple objects like a light bulb and a lamp into a hilarious ten minute scene. I think... I know... Martin can do it. He just doesn’t let the gag naturally play itself out. It all just feels too forced.
But besides the rapid fire gags and absence of subtlety, I had a few other issues with the flick.
One is the lack of wonderfully bad Clouseau disguises (though there is one brief disguise scene where he and Jean Reno blend in with the wallpaper). I would have liked to have seen Martin dip into his own personal character bag and play Clouseau trying to play it straight in a clearly ridiculous disguise.
The second missing piece is absence of all things Kato. Okay…granted, "little yellow friend" or "man servant" may come off as racist for people todaybut it just doesn’t work. Clouseau is constantly trying to attack him, but as the "straight man", Reno never gets hit, always karate chops Clouseau to his knees…so why is that funny? Why even include it, then? I loved to see Kato and Clouseau beat the hell out of each other…but you can’t have one side of the carnage represented and not the other.
The third, final missing piece is Blake Edward’s direction. The man knew how to stage a gag and to give his actors room to play it out. While the direction wasn't bad, I just felt in my gut jokes could’ve been staged a little better. (But now I'm nitpicking.) The score used was a temp (a collection of the previous Panther scores), but I hope this new director knows when to use music cues for gags, and when to shut the hell up and let the action play by itself. I hate when movies use dopey cue music to let the audience know "Hey, this is a funny scene!" instead of using the silence as a funny counter-point to the action. Check out the old Panther movies and you’ll see what I mean.
All right, some positives. Kevin Kline is great as Dreyfus. He plays Dreyfus' utter contempt with Clouseau and his confusion with his bumbling into the world’s accolades with just the right tone... and, yes, subtle humor. Sure, he’s broad at times, but he mixes it up in a manner that would make Herbert Lom proud.
Some of the gags do work. There are more than a few jokes centered on Clouseau's inability to properly pronounce words (which leads to a funny scene with him working with an English coach to try and say the word “hamburger”). And the final scenes with him and Dreyfus harkens back to the grand physical gags of the good old Sellers/Lom days. But for every joke that does click, there’s an over the top scene with a fish eating Clouseau's jacket while both his hands are stuck in vases, or an egg falling from Clouseau's balcony, clocking a biker, and causing him to hit a nearby newsstand, which, in turn, explodes in a ball of fire. Um…huh?
All in all, it's ten times... no, one hundred times better than the god-awful Son of the Pink Panther. But it isn't a pimple on Sellers’ shadow’s ass. It's just okay. But then again, in all fairness, those are some awfully big shoes to fill (just ask Geoffery Rush). So, if watching people run face first into trees and get kneed in the groin makes you piss yourself (or you like America’s Funniest Home Videos), then by all means, bring some depends to this one. Maybe for the generation that hasn’t seen the old movies, this will be as funny to them as the originals were for us oldies in the sixties and seventies. Maybe if I didn't have the baggage of Sellers' performances, I would've enjoyed it more. But once you’ve seen Michael Jordan slam it home from the free throw line, it's kinda hard to be impressed by a simple lay up.
Thanks, man. Nice work.