“Let me bring you up to speed. We know nothing. You are now up to speed.”
The Pink Panther is one of those properties that has given several generations some wonderful memories. If you were a kid, of any age, in the 1970’s you remember watching the cartoon series on Saturday mornings. It was one of the more innovative cartoons in that it had almost no dialog. The titular cat was always trying to outwit the witless Inspector Clouseau, and in true comedic fashion would always manage to escape. If you were a little bit older, you remember the truly inspired comedy films by Blake Edwards. Here it was the absolute genius of Peter Sellers who brought to life the famous bumbling detective. With his brilliant combination of physical sight gags and clever word play, Sellers would create an iconic character that would entertain through several films until his death in 1980 brought an end to the franchise…at least it should have. But MGM was too in love with the money stream the films had provided.
The first resurrection attempt was the harmless enough Trail Of The Pink Panther. Through archive footage of Sellers the film explored the search for the missing Clouseau. It was funny enough and served as a greatest hits, of sorts, for Sellers and the character. Roger Moore attempted the part in The Curse Of The Pink Panther just a year later. It was abysmally bad and should have provided a clue clear enough that Inspector Clouseau himself surely couldn’t have missed it. But, after a decade, MGM was at it again with The Son Of The Pink Panther. This was the first time that an attempt was made to carry on the franchise with another character and actor replacing Sellers’ Clouseau. This time Roberto Benigini played Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli, the son of Clouseau and Maria, the woman Clouseau helped in the incredibly funny A Shot In The Dark. The film was a disaster and appeared to prove to the studio brass that perhaps the franchise died when Sellers did.
Enter 2006, and Steve Martin decides to bring Clouseau back from the dead in a film in which he would star as the iconic character. Martin might well be a wild and crazy guy, but he’s no Peter Sellers. The film, however, pulled in over $150 million worldwide. The studio should have taken notice that only $82 came from the domestic box office, and that on an inflated $80 million budget for the film. But, lessons need be learned the hard way, and we recently were asked to endure The Pink Panther 2. Audiences stayed away in droves. The film was a box office disaster, and now that catastrophe has made its way to Blu-ray and high definition. Sellers once asked the question: “Does your dog bite?” This one is certainly a dog, but it has no bite. It does smell, however.
The renowned, and once thought retired, international thief known as The Tornado is striking all over Europe. Some of the most priceless treasures on the continent have been stolen. These treasures include the fabled Shroud Of Turin and the English Magna Carta. Unable to catch the elusive master thief, the nations of Europe have assembled a group of the land’s best detectives to form a “dream team”. They want Inspector Clouseau to lead the great team. Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Cleese) has since sent the Inspector on parking enforcement duty to keep him out of his hair. But, he reluctantly agrees to assign Clouseau to the team in the hope that he will fail publicly. Clouseau doesn’t want to take the assignment for fear that the famed Pink Panther Diamond might be stolen should he leave France. Of course, the second he steps outside of the country his premonition is validated and the gem goes missing. The team is off to a bad start when the Pope’s Ring Of Saint Peter is stolen while they dine just a couple miles away in Rome. Clouseau commits one blunder after another and is finally removed from the dream team. They immediately solve the case without him, but Clouseau believes they are wrong. Of course, we know what happens next.
The real master crime here is stolen talent. Never before have I seen such a talented cast being wasted on such crap. John Cleese looks like he couldn’t be more pained than when appearing in the film. He wasn’t even in the first Martin Panther film, taking the role over from Kevin Kline, who obviously had more sense. Andy Garcia plays the Italian detective and is the most dynamic of the group. But his character has no meat, and Garcia works harder than any man should have to to try and bring some substance to the part. Alfred Molina plays the English detective and sleepwalks the entire time. He carries a constant: “How the hell did I end up here” expression. Lily Tomlin suffers as a political correctness officer charged with keeping Clouseau’s off-color comments in line. In perhaps the worst injustice is incredible French actor Jean Reno as Clouseau’s underappreciated partner. I felt like taking up a collection for the poor fellow so he won’t feel the need to suffer as much as he appears to here. He never looks happy, and it’s very clear he would rather be playing a corpse on CSI. Emily Mortimer returns as Clouseau’s romantic interest, Nicole. She tries, and it’s not her fault the character is so bland. Ashwarya Rai attempts to be the exotic beauty in the film but never convinces us. Finally there’s Martin himself. When Steve Martin is in his element he can be wonderfully funny. Sadly, this is not his element. At times he attempts to drive the comedy more toward his “wild and crazy” abilities, but it always looks out of place. His accent is incredibly annoying from the start. Martin would be best advised to return to his own roots and work on something more original.
The traditional animated credits remain from the Blake Edwards days. Nearly everything else is either gone or completely compromised. The Karate training attacks that the original had with Kato, his butler, are replaced by two kids tearing up the house with Martin. The angst of Dreyfus remains, but not even John Cleese can match the wonderful performances delivered by Herbert Lom in the original films. In the end, this looks more like a spoof of the original material rather than any kind of remake or continuation. Perhaps MGM will finally let The Pink Panther rest in peace.
The Pink Panther 2 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. As much as I disliked the film, to be fair, this was a pretty good transfer. The picture did look rather soft in spots, but color reproduction was pretty impressive. There’s a scene were Martin is dressed in a green troubadour outfit that virtually jumps off the screen. Other costumes and set decorations provide nearly that kind of colorful presentation. Flesh tones were a bit off, but I suspect it was a conscious decision. You’ll find them a bit too rosy. Black levels are excellent, although most of the film is pretty well lit. The print was in excellent condition.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is pretty solid. This is mostly a dialog driven film, so there isn’t an incredible demand on the audio presentation. I was disappointed in some of the new renditions of the classic theme by Henry Mancini. That’s not the fault of the transfer but really Christophe Beck’s liberties in the score. There is a surprisingly good LFE layer here. When Clouseau goes crashing about you get a nice sub response and wonderful use of surrounds. It goes above and beyond for this kind of film.
The best extra here is a bonus DVD disc with 27 of the classic cartoons.
Gag Reel: (3:34) SD Isn’t the entire film a gag reel?
Drama Is Easy…Comedy Is Dangerous: (7:43) This is a behind the scenes feature that focuses on the film’s stunts.
A Dream Team Like No Other: (13:56) HD It’s mostly a synopsis of the film and a description of the characters.
Master Thief Global Showdown: This is an interactive game.
This might well be a good excuse to rediscover the Peter Sellers original films. They are masterpiece works of art, classic when compared to this rather stupid film. I’m convinced that the series will end on this rather sad note. Watching this movie is “ a night to remember that we must immediately forget”.