The Pink Panther 2
For the creative people responsible for making movie there is cause to rejoice if a film is successful enough to warrant a sequel. If the public sufficiently embraces the characters enough there might even be a trilogy. Sometime the Holy Grail is achieved and the film becomes a full blown franchise. In 1963 a silly little comedy caught the imagination of audiences around the world one of the best known franchises was born; "The Pink Panther’ series. It would produce some eight films but more memorably was extended into a rather extensive number of animated shorts featuring a silent pink panther and the famous theme music. There was even a string of commercials employing the character. This makes the opening sequence one of the most recognizable in film history. As rare as it is for a series of films to reach the exalted franchise level "The Pink Panther’ has done it twice. There was a failed attempt to resurrect it in the early eighties but it really took hold in 2006 with the launch of the second wave franchise. It is not uncommon for installments of this type of series of flicks to degrade somewhat with each subsequent entry. This had always been the showcase for the unique comic style of the late, great Peter Sellers. He basically embodied the role of the bumbling detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
As most already know the actual Pink Panther was a rare, extremely large diamond and target of the international jewel thief, ‘The phantom’. Once the animation became so widely popular it became the name of the franchise. The current films star Steve Martin in the lead and while he is an innovative and capable comedian there is something about the role that still cries out for Sellers. The second outing for Martin, ‘The Pink Panther 2’ is now available on DVD and Blu-ray but it does seem this franchise is trying hard but is showing its age. This is admittedly not the best of the lot but if you are in the mood for silly it might just be just right for you and suitable for a light family flick night.
The established team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber provided the script for this flick. Previously they worked together on the romantic comedy ‘(500) Days of Summer’. This story does represent a fairly radical change in direction for their nascent careers. The movie under consideration here is a flat out farce. On the surface this may look like an easy genre to script since there is typically an ‘every goes’ feel to the presentation. In practice this is one of the most difficult forms of cinema to master. The audience must perceive chaos but that requires the solid foundation of a tightly woven script, meticulous direction and comic performances with perfect timing. While Neustadter and Weber give it a good, honest try they just require more in the way of seasoning to achieve the required degree of difficulty. As mentioned they were also heavily restricted by having to instill elements that defined the original series. The story looses focus rather rapidly and never managers to get back on track. It sticks so closely to the basic premise and execution of the previous flick in the current series that it comes across as a clone.
That is not necessarily a bad thing if that previous flick was strong enough in plot to support its continuation. As it turns out that film, as well as this offering, is more along the lines of very loosely linked comedy skits that do little to establish a cohesive story. What passes as connective tissue here is the recovery of the titular Pink Panther diamond. St the start of the flick Clouseau (Steve Martin) has been well lauded for catching the international jewel thief and saving the day. This success has not altered Cousteau’s boss’ opinion of the bumbling detective. Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese) still detests Clouseau and wants to get rid of him as soon as possible. When a new international thief, the Tornado, begins stealing valuable artifacts such as the Magna Carta and the shroud of Turin the authorities demand action. This comes in the form of assembling a team of the best detective around the world. This does provide the opportunity for a plethora of silly racial stereotypes that at least keeps them from targeting one particular group. One potential bright spot here is the cast is remarkable. It even might make you wonder how the producers managed to get them all on board for this flick.
Directing this movie is Harald Zwart who began his career directing Norwegian music videos. He also helmed a couple of other silly flicks including ‘Agent Cody Banks’ and ‘One Night at McCool's’. He could have reigned in the general mayhem and provided some focus to the film. In one way the episodic nature works since if a particular bit doesn’t hit with you just wait a minute or two and another will be right along. Steve Martin is admittedly one of the funniest men around and I have been a fan for decades. The bottom line here what audiences have come to expect from a Pink Panther flick was tailored to the talents of Sellers, he was a master at seamlessly blending dry humor and sheer wackiness. Martin’s comedy is best in family themed films like the ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ remakes.
The home theater release of the film is very good. The Blu-ray version is excellent with a video that is bright and realistic complimented by a robust, well balanced lossless audio. What does stand out are the extras, there is a gag reel, ‘Drama Is Easy...Comedy Is Dangerous Featurette’, a trivia game and 27 animated shorts. This is not great but can be fun as a pop corn flick.