|The Pink Panther (2006)
Starring: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Beyoncé Knowles, Emily Mortimer
Director: Shawn Levy
In the movie “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” there is a sequence where the filmmakers explain how Enron would use mark-to-market accounting principles to book future earnings, which may or may not exist in actuality, as present day revenue. Likewise, those same people found a way to take any division that was hemorrhaging money – which was nearly every division, really – and shift those debts into shell companies whose “profits” would not show up on Enron’s bottom line. As CYA maneuvers go, it was a brilliant one. Of course, it was also horribly flawed, since you can’t keep up the charade forever, but it went a long way toward buying the company enough time for the big players to cash in some stock options before the company began bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig.
Likewise, Sony’s decision to move “The Pink Panther,” from its original release date last August to now, is clearly one of those Enron shell game hide-our inevitable-debt moves. Sony was already bleeding thanks to duds like “Stealth” and “Bewitched,” and had box office poison like “The Legend of Zorro,” “The Fog” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” on the horizon. The choice was simple: move Steve Martin, and take your financial lumps in 2006. What, like he’s going to complain? He hasn’t made a good movie in…oh, hell, a long time. He’ll deal with it. Hell, they wrote a skit in last week’s “Saturday Night Live” about that very thing. The premise was: what are the depths an actor will go to promote his movie? For Martin, it meant being branded an anti-Semite for life. And he didn’t bat an eye. Funny how art imitates life sometimes. Martin’s no anti-Semite, of course, but he is a dirty, dirty whore for making this movie, never mind the “Panther”-themed “Silence Is Golden” cell phone commercials that air before the movie starts.
Martin plays the bumbling Clouseau, who’s sought out by French Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline, also slumming) to “solve” a crime involving the death of the owner of a soccer team, and the theft of his massive diamond ring, in the middle of a soccer field during a match. In truth, Clouseau is promoted to Inspector for his very incompetence, in an attempt to keep the press off the trail while a more competent crew solves the murder mystery under wraps. Assigned to him are a secretary named Nicole (Emily Mortimer, fire your agent at once) and second detective Ponton (Jean Reno, God it’s good to see you again), whose true mission is to keep an eye on Clouseau and report any updates to Dreyfus. Along the way, Clouseau, who doesn’t have much experience in dealing with women, must track the victim’s girlfriend Xania (Beyoncé Knowles), who completely perplexes him. Which is saying something, given how perplexed Clouseau was to begin with.
It’s difficult to begin breaking down precisely where “Pink Panther” goes wrong. Oh, wait, no it’s not: the second that the credits are finished rolling. The credits are vintage animated silliness, just like the Peter Sellers “Panther” movies. Sadly, everything goes straight to hell the second it goes to live action. There’s a scene where Clouseau parks his Speck (anyone who remembers the McDonald’s spots, or “The Boune Identity,” will know what I mean) in a huge spot, only to continue adjusting his car until he’s hit the other two cars twice, knocking a bumper off of each one. Is that the worst scene, or is it the part where he tries to help Nicole (Mortimer was better off doing the big bushy full frontal in “Lovely and Amazing” than this dreck) down from a table? Oh, wait, who am I kidding, it’s the part where Clouseau attaches the electrodes to his own testicles as a demonstration to his suspect of how he’s about to torture him. No, wait, there’s an even dumber scene than that one…are you getting the picture yet?
The most frustrating thing is, there are a couple running jokes throughout the movie that may have ultimately led to something genuinely funny; bikers are mercilessly victimized (a Tour de France reference, I suppose), and the last joke at their expense is easily the best of the bunch, a “Simpsons” moment if ever there was one. Meanwhile, a giant runaway globe makes an amusing callback when you least expect it. The problem is that they completely abandon both of these premises in the second half of the movie, much like they abandon the fourth-wall bit that Kline’s character uses in the first five minutes. If ever a movie was begging for re-shoots, it was this one; once the movie unfolds, it is painfully clear that Kline’s character at the beginning of the movie (which takes place last in the movie’s overall timeline) would never have agreed to be “interviewed” the way he is in the first five minutes. It was simply a convenient device to set up the events that followed, but not one that Chief Inspector Dreyfus would ever, ever agree to do.
I’d like to start a pledge for fellow movie critics to adopt in the future, so if you write about movies and are reading this – well, let me just say that I’m sorry – but hopefully this will make the world a better place: for every bad movie that I have to review, I will go plant a tree, so the time I spent hearing my brain cells exit via my eardrums at the multiplex won’t be completely wasted. Seriously, if every critic in the country followed this philosophy…well, we’d probably still have to see a lot of bad movies. The country’s environmental issues, however, would disappear.
Despite poor reviews after its theatrical release, "The Pink Panther" DVD features quite a bit of special features, including a commentary with director Shawn Levy, three production featurettes and the documentary "Cracking the Case." Also appearing on the single-disc release are eleven deleted scenes (with option director commentary), an alternate opening sequence, an exclusive performance by Beyonce, and her music video "Check On It."