Take a moment to consider the cast of The Pink Panther 2, a sequel to the 2006 film that hoped to revive interest in the Pink Panther series, long-dormant after the death of star Peter Sellers, who defined the role of bumbling inspector Jacques Clouseau.
After failed attempts to restart the franchise with David Niven and Roberto Begnini, the 2006 film turned to Steve Martin, and made some money, making this sequel inevitable.
Here, Martin is joined by Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Yuki Matsuzaki, and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai, with support from John Cleese and Lily Tomlin, and Jeremy Irons and French icon Johnny Hallyday as potential villains. What a good movie this cast could have made.
The Pink Panther 2, of course, is not that movie. And given a rather quick demise at the US box office, the series may well return to dormancy. Not that the film is entirely bad; it’s an improvement over the much-despised 2006 movie, with some talented players and clever dialogue, and while the slapstick almost never works it’s less prevalent than in the previous film. It’s also rather inoffensive, and while the first film may have desensitized me to this, I didn’t much mind what they were now doing to this once-brilliant series.
Plot: a mysterious thief who identifies himself as ‘Tornado’ has stolen the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, and other priceless artifacts. A “dream-team” of international detectives is assembled, headed by Clouseau, which includes Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki), Pepperidge (Alfred Molina), and Vicenzo (Andy Garcia).
They’re aided by Clouseau’s partner Ponton (Jean Reno), and potential love interests Nicole (Emily Mortimer) and Sonia (Aishwarya Rai). France’s Pink Panther diamond is also snatched, and the dream team tracks Tornado to Italy and fence Avellaneda (Jeremy Irons).
There’s a twist or two and things are wrapped up more neatly than one might expect. Only Hallyday is given nothing to do.
The film opens with some awful slapstick, John Cleese violently banging his head against a bathroom sink and Martin flying down Paris streets, and I braced for the worst.
Thankfully, the rest of the film tones it down a bit, and the climatic set piece almost works. I found a few chuckles in Martin’s line deliveries (“And what is this key piece of evidence? Ah, a key!”), and it was nice to watch all these actors together on screen, especially Garcia, who has some fun interplay with Martin.
But you’ll forgive me for wishing I was watching Andy Garcia and Steve Martin, instead of these thick-accented Italian and French stereotypes.