Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
PP for kids
The Denver Post
February 10, 2006 Friday
P is for Panther Restyled Clouseau plays to sly kids
Michael Booth Denver Post Staff Writer
You will leave "The Pink Panther" still wondering if Steve Martin does Peter Sellers proud, or done him wrong.
Meanwhile, the children will be cackling all the way home, "AM-bourg-air! Ah wood lock to bah uh AM-bourg-air!"
This fairly tame "Panther" remake works on at least one level: It claws its way straight to the shallow soul of 10-year-olds made hysterical by flatulence.
That would include me, much of the time. One of the funniest scenes involves Inspector Clouseau (Martin) retreating to a soundproof recording booth to make himself, as the French might say, sans gas. That lovely rock star Xania (Beyoncé) has left the microphone on is a glorious Gallic given.
Another high point: Clouseau flooding a bathroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, crashing through the floor onto the front desk, then calmly dinging the bell and demanding "Fresh towels in 204!"
If you are as clueless as Clouseau in figuring out what happens next in this kind of movie when someone declares, "This intruder is wearing a flesh-colored mask!," then don't go. Neither flatulence nor Francophiles can save you.
The original "Pink Panther" series, from the incomparable straight man Sellers and naughty director Blake Edwards, was pitched at sly adults - more martinis than mugging. This one, co-written by Martin with Len Blume, is pitched at sly children. Some adults may enjoy the chaperone duties; many others will slink to another screen in the multiplex.
As the bumbling French inspector Clouseau, Sellers was the dual embodiment of Everyman's daydreams and nightmares. He imagined himself to be sophisticated even as everyone around him shoveled scorn. He always allowed a split-second of agonizing self-awareness just when things were at their worst, then immediately persevered in deluding himself back to the top.
Martin has displayed the same qualities since before "The Jerk," and while he is prone to some of that extra mugging, he clearly respects the Sellers ideal. His writing style is more obvious than the laid-back originals, but he can still sell a line: "What are the chances the body would fall exactly within the chalk outline on the floor!"
I would say don't sweat the details, but some will still ask about plot. The French national soccer coach is assassinated; chief inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) worries no one can solve the case, so he seeks a fall guy on whom to blame a bungled investigation.
Enter Clouseau, fresh off a banana boat the size of a supertanker. But with the able (and quaintly amusing) backup of sidekicks Jean Reno and Emily Mortimer, Clouseau conquers all.
Along the way, fountain pens leak, burglars hide behind curtains, fingers are stuck in live electrical sockets. Antique globes bounce down steps and into the streets, there to wreak havoc on the many French bike racers who dared to question Lance Armstrong. Clouseau tries the good-cop/bad-cop routine, starring in both roles.
Questioning the curvaceous Xania, Clouseau snaps at his partner, "Why must you browbeat her? Can't you see she's sexy?"
It's not quite on the high comedic plane of "Do you have a license for that moon-key?" But AM-bourg-airs will do. Just ask the kids.