It’s maddening to watch somebody as gifted and funny as Steve Martin stumbling about in trash like The Pink Panther 2. It’s hard to believe that a man like Martin, with his pedigree, can’t find better material than this. While he’s always been prone to commercial trash (the Cheaper by the Dozen and Father of the Bride movies), he used to show quite the sense of adventurism in some of his film choices (Pennies from Heaven, Bowfinger, The Spanish Prisoner).
With the exception of Shopgirl in 2005, Martin has done nothing special as an actor since 2001’s Novocaine. He’s shown up on movie lots, bumbled around and mugged like a fool in front of the camera, and taken home some big paychecks. The Pink Panther 2 represents the absolute bottom of a storied career.
I counted one laugh in this movie … ONE! That laugh escaped my body while watching a sequence where Martin’s Inspector Clouseau is watched on black and white security cam TVs enduring a series of physical traumas. Martin gets run over by horses when he opens a stable door, and I giggled. For the rest of the film, I sat stone-faced.
I’m not one of the folks saying The Pink Panther series had to die with Peter Sellers. I actually think Martin could’ve made for a decent Clouseau, and I kind of liked him in his first effort, even though the film surrounding him was crap. For the sequel, I grew tired of his shtick before the opening credits rolled. The material he’s working with is uninspired, and his performance lacks the wit and intelligence that have made some past Martin films enjoyable. This time out, he’s just a goofball subject to recycled pratfall bits and stupid jokes deriving from his outrageous accent.
The plot involves some gibberish with items like the Shroud of Turin, the Imperial Sword, and the Pope’s ring being stolen by somebody called The Tornado. The involvement of the Pope in the story leads inevitably to the sorry sight of Martin in a Pope outfit, falling off a ledge at the Vatican while making his best “Oh, shit!” face. I can just see a writer/director discussion where they enthuse “Let’s put Steve Martin in the Pope’s hat with his Clouseau pencil mustache and the laughs will fly like ducks out of a lake!”
Well, the laughs fly more like geese tragically heading into the turbines of a US Airways jet, bringing this film into a downward spiral with no hero pilot to save it.
While the Sellers Pink Panther films got increasingly dopey, they did manage to retain a certain level of class and intelligence even as they veered into the outrageous. (The Pink Panther Strikes Again is especially nuts.) The Sellers installments reached a low point when director Blake Edwards concocted The Trail of the Pink Panther. He created a story around deleted Sellers footage from previous Panther films and essentially soiled the legacy of a great character.
To put things in perspective: The Pink Panther 2 is worse than The Trail of the Pink Panther. It not only soils the legacy of a great character, it pukes all over it, kicks it in the teeth, attaches large weights and kicks the poor bastard over the side of the boat.
Look, if Martin retired right now, he’d have a decent legacy of good films sprinkled amongst the trash. Hopefully, bad box office has put an end to his days as Clouseau, and he will find himself in projects more befitting his talents. Donning that mustache for any future installments of this drivel would be a cinematic travesty in line with Eddie Murphy’s insistence upon working with director Brian Robbins (Norbit, Meet Dave and the upcoming A Thousand Words). This madness must stop.